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Note: I was given an e-ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
E-Book (NetGalley), May 28, 2019, Rating: 🍕🍕🍕 (3/5 Slices)
Andrew has mostly walled himself off from other people. His job is the definition of macabre; he is responsible for helping find the next of kin and make funeral arrangements for people who have died alone in their homes. Through a misunderstanding, for years his coworkers have been lead to believe he has a lovely wife and kids that he rushes home to each day. But in reality, he lives completely alone, with only his hobby of model trains and his train fanatic friends (he only talks to them online) to keep him company. Embarrassed and awkward, he keeps the lie about his home life alive and in fact, even comes to delight in his imagined home life. But everything changes once Peggy comes into his life and he starts to see that true human connection just might be worth letting go of the fantasy.
I enjoyed this charming and funny British novel. People need other people. That is the main message in this book, and it really is so true. I don’t want to give anything else away because the least known ahead of time, the better. It has been called the male Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and I think that is a very accurate comparison. Some have even gone so far as to say it is a bit of a copycat novel to Eleanor. I don’t disagree and that is why I did not rate this one higher. However, I did really enjoy the tone of this book which was much lighter than that of Eleanor. The story is the right amount of complex with a few twists and turns and different story lines to keep you turning pages. For the first few chapters, I was unsure how I felt about Andrew and his situation, but it did not take too long for the story to take off and when it did, it really grabbed me. Overall, this book and it’s quirky characters won me over with it’s hopeful message and funny dry humor.
One of the most delightful aspects of this book is its cringe-worthy situations a la the TV show The Office. (This is not surprising considering The Office’s British origins.) As a way to try and create camaraderie among office mates, Andrew’s awkward boss mandates that each staff member on their team take a turn hosting a dinner party for their coworkers in their own home. Horrified at the idea (because then everyone will know he has been lying about his own home life), Andrew comes up with a clever plan to get through his turn on the dinner party circuit. I will not spoil it except to say that this dish, Cannelloni, along with some really special friends contribute significantly to the outcome of the night for Andrew.
Reading about Cannelloni made me realize that I have never made it before. My mother makes a really special lasagna that is a staple at family get-togethers, and I sometimes make spaghetti or Italian meatballs (and of course, pizza) but Cannelloni is not in my repertoire of recipes at all. So, I found this recipe online and tweaked it a bit to come up with this version of Italian Cannelloni.