The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson
Release Date: 20th April 2017
Buy: Paperback Kindle
What’s the Story?
P is for Paris where it all began. J is for Jealousy where it all came undone. But the most important letter is F. F is for Forgiveness, the hardest of all.
Sisters Poppy and Rose used to be as close as two sisters could be, but it’s been over a decade since they last spoke. Until they both receive a call that tells them their mother has gone – without ever having the chance to see her daughters reunited.
Andrea, though, wasn’t the kind of woman to let a little thing like death stand in the way of her plans. Knowing her daughters better than they know themselves, she has left behind one very special last gift – the A-Z of Everything
Estranged sisters Poppy and Rose haven’t spoken in over ten years due to something that happened in their past that tore their relationship apart. However, when their mother, Angela, dies their lives are brought back together with the concoction of a very clever plan on Angela’s behalf. In the days before her death Angela compiled an ‘A-Z’ of tasks and challenges for the girls to complete together. From E is for Elvis to X is for X-Men, along with the help of good friend, Lewis, Angela takes her daughters of a fully-fledged trip down memory lane and encourages them to face up to the demons of the past, and maybe, just maybe, forge a future where they can get along. But the biggie is can they get past the scariest letter of the alphabet? F is for Forgiveness after all…
As a massive fan of Debbie Johnson’s previous books I was off-the-scale excited to get stuck into the A-Z of Everything. As much as I adore her light-hearted romantic comedies, I knew from the offset that this novel was going to be something just that little bit different, but I had by no means appreciated exactly how different it would be…
Another thing I had certainly not anticipated was being in tears before I even got to Chapter 2. This book really played with my emotions, it was beautiful yet heart-breaking, upsetting yet uplifting and I absolutely loved every minute of it.
Angela is such a bright, vibrant and loveable character who, despite not featuring in the present day, still shines out purely through the monologues, recordings and poems that she complies for her A-Z. I felt as though I built up a good picture of her in my mind of this flamboyant, sometimes outrageous lady who was full to the brim with love for her daughters. The way she saw the A-Z through, despite the end of her life becoming more and more imminent, was an inspiration and the longing that she possessed for her daughters to be reunited, despite not being around to see it for herself, will really tug on your heartstrings.
Poppy and Rose were both fascinating characters and easy to relate to – whatever your situation. Rose has found herself in a vicious cycle of overeating in a bid to conquer her unhappiness, whilst lonely Poppy fills the void in her life by sponsoring children in other countries (which there’s nothing wrong with…only she currently has 27 on the go…) There were times when I wanted to bash their heads together (and I’m sure Angela felt exactly the same way) I was desperate to find out what occurred in their lives all those years ago to cause them to fall out as spectacularly as they did.
I absolutely loved the idea behind The A-Z of Everything and it was unlike any book I’ve ever read before. It’s based on such a unique concept and you can’t help but wonder how you would react if you were faced with Rose and Poppy’s situation. The way in which the story is formatted helps you to build up a realistic image of both the girls past and present, as you piece together the mystery of how things ended up the way in which they did.
The overwhelming theme to this novel is, of course, grief. Debbie Johnson tackles this tricky topic with sensitivity and tact whilst sprinkling in a hefty dose of hope and warmth for good measure. Understandably Rose, Poppy and Lewis (who I loved, incidentally – it’s all about the tweed…) are going through a tangle of emotions and Debbie manages to portray their feelings so well, really getting to the heart of their emotions through her writing.
The other thing I took away from this novel is to never forget how precious time with loved ones really is. It’s all too easy to let petty feuds and arguments get in the way of what is really important and this book is a stark reminder that we should embrace and enjoy every moment we get to spend with the people we care about.
My favourite thing about The A-Z of Everything is that whilst the story centres around losing a loved one and the emotional upset that follows, it is also interspersed with humour. There are many moments where I found myself quietly giggling, as well as wiping away the odd tear (Angela on the carousel anyone…?!) Allowing the reader to take away the message that despite how dark things may seem there is always a silver lining hiding somewhere and we should never take life for granted.
I adore Debbie Johnson’s writing. She brings her characters to life in such a unique and understated way and I love the direction that her writing appears to be taking with The A-Z of Everything. You can tell that Debbie put a huge amount of time and research into writing this novel too, it’s so brilliantly executed and I honestly can’t fault it. It’s a real story about real people and one of those books that will have you crying both tears and laughter and tears of sadness. I always think this is a really tricky balance to achieve but Debbie does this with ease.
Debbie Johnson has firmly cemented her well-deserved place on my list of favourite authors and I can’t wait to see what she’ll bring us next…
A huge thank you to Felicity at HarperCollins for the opportunity to review.