I finished reading this last weekend and it’s taken me a little time to gather my thoughts on it. I first discovered Hogan’s writing when I read The Keeper Of Lost Things back in 2017. It was a book I loved; it’s quirky characters and thoughtful storyline unfurled gently through simple but lyrical prose with gems of thought provoking insight scattered throughout. I was hopeful for more of the same in The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes but, whilst some of those elements were still there, there was also something that felt very different about it.
The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes tells the incredibly tender tales of two mothers: one consumed by the grief of a twelve year old tragedy and one struggling with fear and uncertainty about the future. I was utterly compelled by Masha’s story. I loved how Rogan wrote her grief and the ways in which she dealt with it, and her character’s development was moving. I did not feel the same about Alice.
From the beginning, there was something that felt off about Alice’s character and story that I just couldn’t put my finger on. Where I was eager to know what happened next for Masha, with Alice I felt like I didn’t want to know. I found it quite jarring at times and it wasn’t until right towards the end that the reason for that became clear. The darkness hidden at the heart of Alice’s story was something I did not expect. When it was revealed, I viewed her story in a new light and, whilst I was still not enamoured with her character in the way I was with Masha – if anything, I was even less sure how to feel about her – she suddenly made a lot more sense to me.
Although The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes was not entirely what I was expecting, it still held a lot of the signature beauty of Hogan’s writing, evident in The Keeper Of Lost Things. There were still many poignant lines that I found myself going back to. There were still heartbreaking and heartwarming moments conveyed with simple eloquence. There were loveable characters, plenty quirkiness in the storytelling, and a refreshing originality to the tale, which made it a highly enjoyable read.
The central storyline is one of great grief and the process of learning to live beyond it but – true to the style established in her debut – Hogan touches on other wide ranging issues, including mental illness, societal expectations, age, gender and parenthood, to name a few. Although darker in tone than Keeper, The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes is still told with humour, eccentricity and a significant amount of joy. In fact, for a story of such grief and sorrow, Hogan’s writing leaves us with a message of hope: “Life is full of small joys if you know where to look for them.”
All in all, I definitely recommend The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes, especially if you’re looking for an original story, quirky characters and simple yet beautiful writing.