When “Good Enough” Becomes “Just Right”

Crooked Heart: A Novel, by Lissa Evans, (Harper), 288 pages, release date 28 July, 2015.

Lissa Evan’s Crooked Heart is set in England at the onset of World War II. Ten-year-old Noel lives in Hampstead Heath with his godmother Mattie, a former Suffragette, who possesses a free spirit and fierce intellect. Their life together is chaotic and joyful, but then Maddie develops senile dementia. After her death, Noel first lives with her second cousin and his wife—a ploddingly predictable pair, who don’t quite know what to make of him. They’re rather relieved to send him away from London with other child evacuees. So Noel finds himself in a third home, living with Vee, who supports her son and mother with odd jobs. Her son does little; her mother writes long letters of advice to Winston Churchill. Vee dreams of cons that could get her out of her precarious financial state, if only she were organized and confident enough to manage them. That’s where Noel’s intellect and preternatural calm come into play…

I absolutely loved every minute I spent reading this book. Evans juggles the bleak, the comic, and the hopeful, keeping each of them aloft throughout the novel. No one in this novel is likeable on first meeting, but as Evans gives us time to get to know these characters we find ourselves first understanding, then caring deeply about them. This is absolutely a five-star read. Each moment you spend with it will feel like a small gift to yourself.

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