Saturday 13 February 2016

The Sender by Toni Jenkins

Can an inspirational card from a secret sender really help change your life?
For Abby, Kat, Patti and Tessa, it seems to hold that extraordinary quality.
The card instructs each woman to hold it in their possession for six months before sending it on, with an invitation to meet the sender two years from the date of its inception.
From Edinburgh to Glasgow, York to Cambridge, the card is sent on a journey to impart its magic.
But who is the sender and what was their motive? And why where they the chosen ones?

The Sender by Toni Jenkins was published in paperback, and e-book in June 2015.  I was contacted by author Angela Jackson about this book late last year. Angela wrote The Emergence of Judy Taylor, a really fabulous book that I reviewed on Random Things in November 2013. Angela asked if I would like to read The Sender by Toni Jenkins, I'm really glad that I said yes. It's a beautifully written story that holds the reader captive, fans of Jojo Moyes and Rowan Coleman will adore this book.

The premise of this story is intriguing, and it begins with a Prologue narrated by the anonymous 'sender'. The Sender knows that Abby is facing huge difficulties in her life and wants to let her know that there is love and support for her, but that she herself is strong enough, although at the moment she does not realise it, to overcome anything that life throws at her.

And so, the card is sent, a simple white card with a message on the front: You can overcome anything,  and inside Abby is instructed to keep the card for six months and then send it to the next woman in need. From darkness to light.  Also included is a four leaf clover, and each woman is instructed to take a leaf from it before sending on the card.

Abby certainly is facing hard times. Her heart is broken and her whole world has been turned upside down. Gone are the expensive cars and the luxury lifestyle, and she is faced with life as a single mother, with no job.

Toni Jenkins has created four very strong female characters who face their problems with strength, with humour and with character. Abby sends the card to Kat, who in turn sends it to Patti, it finally reaches Tessa before the four women meet on a designated date, in Edinburgh, to discover who the mysterious sender actually is.

There are a lot of serious, and quite dark issues dealt with within this story. Each of the women are tested to their limits during their sections of the book, but each one of them takes some comfort from knowing that the card is there, and there is someone out there who cares deeply about them. The story could quite easily have become overwhelmed by the themes of death, betrayal, illness, dysfunctional families and grief, yet the author has cleverly structured the book so that each character has their own individual story to tell, with no padding but exquisitely written. 

The stories of each of the women do overlap slightly, and this ties the whole book together very nicely. These characters are strong women, facing some of the most challenging battles, yet each one of them are determined and forceful, yet loving and emotional too. The characters are equal, each one is real, robust and extremely likeable, the reader will shout for them, and egg them on, and be delighted when they conquer their demons and can send the card on to the next woman.

The planned meeting in Edinburgh does take place, and the women meet and it is clear that the card has created the beginning of long-lasting friendships between them. The Epilogue is a message from the Sender, and although I was desperate to know who sent the card, it really doesn't matter in the end who it was, although I didn't guess correctly at all. This is not a mystery story, it's a story of real women and it's life-affirming and quite beautifully written, it delivers tears and laughter and inspiration in equal measures.

The Sender is wonderful, Toni Jenkins is a talented and astute author. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

My thanks to Angela Jackson who introduced me to the author, and to Toni Jenkins who sent my copy of the book for review. She also sent a little card with the book .....

Toni Jenkins was born in New Zealand in 1970. After graduating with a BA Honours degree in Education, she bought a one-way ticket to the UK and so began her love affair with the northern hemisphere.
With a lifelong passion for writing, Toni wrote her first novel in her early thirties, with her second being penned in an Italian village during her 'mature gap-year'. 
The Sender is her third novel and the first to be published.
She is currently re-working her Italian creation and building the plot for her fourth book.
Toni lives in Edinburgh with her partner, Peter.

For more information about Toni Jenkins, visit her website
Find her author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @tonijenkinsauth


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