I got an ARC of this novel through Net Galley and it promptly got swallowed up in my kindle! After rediscovering it, I couldn’t put it down and read it in a little over a day. It is a laugh-out-loud funny, touching, and heart-warming story about a woman who follows her mother’s dying wish to take her ashes to Canterbury Cathedral in England.

Here’s the description from Net Galley:

In the vein of Jojo Moyes and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, a warm and touching novel about a woman who embarks on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral after losing her mother, sharing life lessons—in the best Chaucer tradition—with eight other women along the way.

Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage.

Within days she joins a group of women who are walking the sixty miles from London to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, reputed to be the site of miracles. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love. Che, who is a perfectionist and workaholic, loses her cell phone at the first stop and is forced to slow down and really notice the world around her, perhaps for the first time in years.

Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.


Oh my goodness — I just loved the character of Che. She is a slightly sarcastic, workaholic introvert, stuck in the middle of this “Broads Abroad” pilgrimage. While each woman is unique and has her own story to tell (part of their walk each day is sharing a story), Che was my favorite and the one we get to know the best.

I once read that “taking a journey” is one of the key plot designs for novels, and this story is no exception. As Che journeys, she finds out more about herself, her relationships, and her true desires in life. Themes of the importance of family and relationships, being true to oneself, self-forgiveness, and that special bond that women share ring throughout this very readable novel, often leaving me nodding my head and thinking, “Yes, that’s exactly how it is, isn’t it?”

Highly recommended! Thank you, Net Galley and Gallery Books, for my review copy!

HFVB Tour Review: LOOKING FOR JANE by Judith Redline Coopey

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Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours is featuring a variety of books by Judith Redline Coopey. I had the pleasure of reading LOOKING FOR JANE a few weeks ago while I was on vacation.

LOOKING FOR JANE follows the adventures of 15-year-old Nell, an orphan in Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s, who runs away from her convent orphanage as opposed to being adopted by a family who’s looking for a worker. Nell knows that her birth mother’s name was Jane and after coming across a story about Calamity Jane, she decides whole-heartedly that Calamity Jane is her birth mother and she needs to find her asap. Nell’s journey takes her through many varied adventures, meeting new friends and finding out about herself and life along the way.

I really enjoyed this story and loved the plucky character of Nell. I always love the “journey to discovery” theme in books, and this one was no exception. Ms. Coopey peppers her story throughout with interesting facts of the time period and gives Nell a very distinctive voice.  I found myself cheering for Nell as she fought her battles.

Here’s what HFVBT has to say:

Looking for Jane

Publication Date: December 21, 2012
Fox Hollow Press
Formats: ebook & Paperback
Pages: 238

Genre: Historical Fiction

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“The nuns use this as their measuring stick: who your people are. Well, what if you don’t have no people? Or any you know of? What then? Are you doomed?” This is the nagging question of fifteen-year-old Nell’s life. Born with a cleft palate and left a foundling on the doorstep of a convent, she yearns to know her mother, whose name, she knows, was Jane.

When the Mother Superior tries to pawn her off to a mean looking farmer and his beaten down wife, Nell opts for the only alternative she can see: she runs away. A chance encounter with a dime novel exhorting the exploits of Calamity Jane, heroine of the west, gives Nell the purpose of her life: to find Calamity Jane, who Nell is convinced is her mother.

Her quest takes her down rivers, up rivers and across the Badlands to Deadwood, South Dakota and introduces her to Soot, a big, lovable black dog, and Jeremy Chatterfield, a handsome young Englishman who isn’t particular about how he makes his way, as long as he doesn’t have to work for it. Together they trek across the country meeting characters as wonderful and bizarre as the adventure they seek, learning about themselves and the world along the way.

Buy Looking for Jane

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I have mixed feelings as to the age group for this story — there is some implied sexual situations in the story, but nothing graphic. I personally would let my sixth grader read it, but it really seems geared as not a children’s book. I enjoyed it a lot!

Thanks for making me part of the tour and for my review copy!

Review: “Wild – from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed

My friend Alison suggested I read Cheryl Strayed’s new book “Wild” (thanks, Al!). I tend to stay away from Oprah book club suggestions (purely because I find EVERYONE is reading them and talking about them) but this one looked so intriguing that I purchased it from Amazon.

You probably have already heard about this book, but in case you haven’t, “Wild” follows Cheryl Strayed’s trek along 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (the western cousin to the East’s Appalachian Trail) as she seeks to heal and redefine her life. At the start of the book we find Cheryl as a lost soul. Her mother has died (which devastates her), her relationship with her family of origin is shaky, her biological father is out of the picture, and she’s recently divorced her husband (who seems like he’s still a steady “beacon” in the mire her life has become). She’s been dating a guy who gets her into heroine. She’s openly honest about her sexual promiscuity. In a word, Cheryl is a bit of a mess. Then she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to save and heal herself. It’s a classic “journey to find oneself” story, but it’s Strayed’s own memoir.

I have to say when I started reading this novel, I did not relate to or care for our protagonist. She seemed incredibly self-centered, to the point of hedonistic. She was drifting around her in her life, making bad decisions. She was suffering but dealing with her suffering through self-indulgence. Then she almost randomly decides to hike the PCT with little to no preparation or experience. I actually found that part funny. It was then that I started to connect with Cheryl as her first hiking days were basically bumbling and mishaps. I’d think to myself: “Gee, that would probably be my experience, too: blisters, rattlesnakes, a too-heavy pack, and band-aids that blow away”. By the time Cheryl got to Northern California I was rooting for her to finish. I was hoping she stayed safe (personally, the thought of trekking 1,100 miles alone is terrifying). I was hoping she figured out that her drug use and abuse and her sexual behaviors were not the way to deal with her pain and grief. I was hoping she would come through the journey stronger and wiser and healed.

I’ll leave it to you readers to discover how Cheryl makes out!