A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold everything. In confessing to secrets she has hidden for twenty years, she will find atonement for the past. As the volunteer points out, ‘Even though you’ve done your travelling, you’re starting a new journey too.’
Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was the beginning.
Last summer, around the same time, I read and adored The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is just as good, but different. It is not a traditional sequel, rather an accompanying novel, but they need to be read in order; if you read Queenie Hennessy before Harold Fry it will spoil it for you nor could you read it on it’s own. They overlap stylistically, have some of the same characters, and are set in the same book world. However, that is where the similarities end. It was actually interesting to see events through Queenie’s eyes as opposed to Harold’s due to the vast differences in their perception of events.
Queenie is in a hospice waiting to die. Yet its not nearly as dark and morbid as you would think. In a lot of ways it’s the opposite. Life is dark and we waste time because we feel as if it is infinite and that we are immortal. For someone whose days are numbered, they have no wish to spend their time being angry and would rather just enjoy themselves. As Queenie gradually understands, it’s the little things like watching the clouds or smelling a flower that bring joy into our lives.
Queenie spent her whole life running and blames herself for something that happened many years ago. As the story unfolds, and Queenie recounts her past, you are left to decide whether she truly was at fault or whether she was simply being impossibly hard on herself. She thinks that her life has been meaningless and wasted simply because she never did anything grand, yet, she was mostly happy and sometimes that’s all that counts.
While in the hospice, Queenie finds solace in writing which she finds therapeutic. The simple act of transcribing events that weigh heavily on her to paper is a form of release. The more she writes the lighter her burden. Like Harold, she too goes on a journey, only one is undertaken while walking, the other while seated.
The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy is a beautiful novel. Highly recommended.