Things Can Only Get Better by David M. Barnett
Publishing Date: 14th November 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 336
Genre: General Fiction (Adults)
*FROM THE INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF CALLING MAJOR TOM*
For elderly churchwarden Arthur Calderbank, there’s no place like home. His home just so happens to be a graveyard.
He keeps himself to himself, gets on with his job, and visits his wife everyday for a chat. When one day he finds someone else has been to see his wife – and has left flowers on her grave – he is determined to solve the mystery of who and why. He receives unlikely help from a group of teenage girls as he tries to solve the mystery, and soon learns that there is more to life than his little graveyard.
Set during the 1990s, Things Can Only Get Better is an uplifting story about the power of a little kindness, friendship and community for readers who enjoy Sue Townsend Ruth Hogan and Joanna Cannon.
“Things Can Only Get Better” is a story about a group of truly unlikely friends who found each other rather accidentally. Arthur is a pensioner whose wife, Molly, died seven years ago but he still didn’t let her go and ended up living in the old chapel in the middle of the cemetery, becoming its caretaker and being not too far away from the love of his life. Arthur is very protective of the cemetery and is not happy with the neighbourhood children who dare to use it as a short – cut, or – even worse – a hung – out. In the meantime, someone has been leaving flowers on Molly’s grave on her birthday for the past few years and Arthur is determined to find who it is. But with this happening in the night and his deteriorating health, the teenagers promise him to help to catch the mysterious visitor. A unique bond is formed between Arthur and the kids and soon they find themselves in a few different battles – together.
You can’t help yourself but immediately fell for the characters. My heart went to Arthur and I was desperate to know what has happened to him to be leading such a solitary life, and then to the kids, seeing them growing up, their determination and their blossoming friendship. The author has breathed fresh air and life into them, and into the book, showing us a much bigger picture, showing that each story has different sides. You’ll end up willing the characters to succeed. Each of the four teenagers has their own story that is incredibly captivating and I loved how much focus they brought back into Arthur’s life. Their difficulties in fitting with the “cools” at school was so authentic and brutally honest. The way the kids were portrayed was heart – breaking, especially the way they were perceived by their school – mates, neighbours and other members of society They were all outcasts at their school because they didn’t fit the “description”, they found the courage to be different and have dreams, and hence they were judged by their teachers who didn’t believe they have a chance for a better future (and if you hear already at school that the only thing you can do is work as a secretary or at the factory, well, it’s not too promising and optimistic, right?), judged by their parent’s choices of life and really, it seems that nobody sees/doesn’t want to see their potential – except for Arthur.
When I started reading this book, I immediately fell in love with it. There was this “something” that made it feel so outstanding and special, the characters were like living and breathing people, and the story was heart – breaking and also humorous, and the more you read, the more you fell in love with it. However, I must admit, that somewhere around the middle, it lost its impact a little and started to drag on a bit, but it was still a compelling, addictive read.
Mostly the novel is about social inequality and about stereotyping and determination, about grabbing life by its horns and squeezing it like lemon. It also touches upon bullying, homelessness, mental illness, loneliness and other social issues with a great sensitivity, so I wouldn’t be afraid to give this book to my teenage child should I have one, as it deals with those issues, and with all the plotlines, in a brilliant, wise – but not too wise, you know what I mean? Not too patronising, not too I know everything better – way.
“Things Can Only Get Better” made me cry, laugh, made me angry but also filled me with hope with its warm glow. Ultimately, even though there is a lot of pain, disappointment and problems under the surface and the characters have to deal with many challenges, there is humour and moments of joy and it has the wonderful feel – good factor to it. It’s deeply moving and very close to life, a brilliant read that I highly recommend.
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