A moving and courageous exploration of belonging and finding home in a rapidly-changing world from the critically acclaimed author of Shelter.
Jo grew up in the Forest of Dean, but she was always the one destined to leave for a bigger , brighter future. When her parents retire from their butcher’s shop, she returns to her beloved community to save the family legacy, hoping also to save herself. But things are more complex than the rose-tinted version of life which sustained Jo from afar.
Tessa is a farrier, shoeing horses two miles and half a generation away from Jo, further into the forest. Tessa’s experience of the community couldn’t be more different. Now she too has returned, in flight from a life she could have led, nursing a secret and a past filled with guilt and shame.
Compelled through circumstance to live together, these two women will be forced to confront their sense of identity, and reconsider the meaning of home.
Sometimes you read a book that you just needed, one that lifts your spirits and gives a sense of home, whatever it may mean to different people. Thank-you to Tracy for the tour invitation, as well as Bonnier Books for sending me a stunning hardback copy of How To Belong by Sarah Franklin. This hopeful read was published in both hardback and eBook on the 12th of November. You can grab yourself a copy directly from The Hive here.
How To Belong is an outstandingly kind and hopeful read, one that I wasn’t aware that I needed until I was reading it. I was drawn into the lives of our two female characters, ones that form an unlikely pair by circumstance. Jo, returns back to her childhood home in the Forest of Dean after previously leaving to follow a career in law, to help run her parents butcher business. This place was once a place where she fitted in, but it may not be the case as she reintroduces herself into the tightly knitted community. Jo takes up residency with fellow Forest of Dean returner, Tessa, one who has deep roots in the forest but one who too feels like she doesn’t fit. This relationship of circumstance is one of the reasons I found myself slipping further and further into the pages of this novel, the personal touch but also the two lost individuals with their differing personalities yet both longing to find a new identity in a place they aren’t sure they belong anymore. The relationship that develops is one of tenderness, sympathy and an understanding that will give the reader hope.
Sarah Franklin has written a heart-warming tale of belonging, friendship, and what it means to leave the past behind you and accept who you are. A stunning literary fiction that will have you draw you in to the lives of its characters, with the use of a dual chapters we get to really understand where both Jo and Tessa are coming from, with their regrets and what is in their hearts. I truly loved them both. I adored how Sarah created a multi-character community and their connections to both our protagonists. For me Jo was kind and open, which then complemented Tessa’s cards-close-to-chest persona and uncertainty of self. Written with wonderful prose, How to Belong is a truly human, compassionate and gracious novel that embodies a tangible expression of friendship and empathy.
So yes, I loved How To Belong, it was heart-warming, uplifting and just gorgeous. Make sure to check out the other amazing bloggers on this tour and their thoughts on this novel. If you’ve already read it, share your thoughts!
Until next time,