Four women, four very different lives. Each woman is much stronger than she knows. We meet the first of these women, Rose, in the 1920s. Rose has been widowed and builds a house and shop in inner Sydney. Rose runs the shop on her own and raises her two children Marie and Lucas. Rose believes in the future, which she sees as being full of possibility for her children. This is what Rose works so hard for.
‘Dear Yesterday, I’m not sure how I got here. I can’t think of the moment my life became tomorrow and my past a yesterday.’
In the present, Marie is now ninety-two. She runs a café in the shop her mother built, a café that is a welcoming refuge for many. Marie is growing old, and frail, but she still does some of the cooking.
Dee is the principal of a local public school, and a regular at Marie’s café. She’s been working hard to launch an inter-faith curriculum into the school. Isla is working with Dee on the marketing strategy for the curriculum, and Dee invites Isla to Marie’s café for coffee. And so begins a wonderful friendship between three women. Marie has health issues and is coming towards the end of her life, but she’s still very much a part of life in the present. In every encounter Marie has with Dee and Isla, I can hear Rose: ‘Anything is possible at thirty-three Maher Street’.
All three of the women have faced (and are facing) challenges. As the novel unfolds, we learn more about those challenges. The women listen to and support each other. The future, for Dee and Isla, may be different from what they’d originally planned but I finished the novel confident that they had the courage to keep moving forward.
What can I say about this novel? I read it in one day. I loved it. While most of the novel is in the present and is about Marie, Isla and Dee, Rose’s spirit was everywhere. So many issues are touched on, including friendship, grief and loss. There’s a beautiful message about focussing on similarities rather than differences, but a recognition that we have some way to go before that message is universally accepted.
I finished the novel, and then read the author’s note. Ms Sepulveda wrote:
‘Rose Robson was my great-grandmother and did indeed build a house and shop at 33 Maher Street, Hurstville. Although I've taken creative licence, there are many precious memories belonging to my family intertwined throughout this story.’
And this note made this accomplished debut novel perfect. I’d have loved to have met Rose.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Ventura Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.
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