Thursday 23 July 2020

Below The Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin @annamcpartlin @ZaffreBooks #RememberRabbitHayes BLOG TOUR

How do you pick up the pieces when the person that held them together is gone?When forty-year-old Rabbit Hayes dies, she leaves behind a family broken by grief.
Her mother Molly is distraught and in danger of losing her faith.
Her father Jack spends hour upon hour in the family attic, poring over his old diaries, losing himself in the past.
Rabbit's brother Davey finds himself suddenly guardian to her twelve-year-old daughter Juliet.
Juliet might be able to fill a hole in Davey's heart - but how can he help Juliet through her grief when he can barely cope with his own?
But even though the Hayes family are all fighting their own battles, they are drawn together by their love for Rabbit, and their love for each other.
In the years that follow her death they find new ways to celebrate and remember her, to find humour and hope in the face of tragedy, and to live life to its fullest, as Rabbit would have wanted. From the bestselling author of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes comes a huge-hearted novel about death, family and finding laughter in the most unexpected of places.
Below a Big Blue Sky will make you laugh, cry and shout with joy.

Below The Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin is published today; 23 July 2020, by Bonnier Zaffre. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, and to Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers who invited me to take part on this blog tour.

It is over five years since I read The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, and I still recommend that book to people; probably on a weekly basis. I really never did think that Anna McPartlin would write her follow up, but I am delighted that she has.

The author makes it clear in her notes that this is a standalone story and if you haven't read the first one, it won't spoil things.  However, I'd urge anyone who hasn't read it to do so, you really are missing out on something very special.

Below The Big Blue Sky begins where the last book ends. Rabbit Hayes is dead. She had breast cancer, and her illness was traumatic and painful, she fought in her own determined way, but at the very end, she realised that it was time for her to 'catch the van'. She was gone and she left an hole in the hearts of her family and friends that could never be filled.

Within a couple of pages of this book, I felt as though I'd come home. The characters are so wonderfully colourful that they are like great friends that you've not seen for ages, but who you know so well, that the gap of time does not diminish your love for them.

The author uses the same formula as the previous book to tell the story; each chapter is narrated by a single character; Rabbit's family members and her best friend Marjorie all have their say, and whilst Rabbit herself doesn't have a voice anymore, the characters more than make up for that, and she is there, right in the heart of it. Readers will know her just as well as if they were reading her own narrative, for Rabbit is the glue that binds the story together. It is Rabbit's legacy that informs the choices that each and every character takes; it is her voice that they hear when they think about the future.

There is nothing quite so hilarious as an Irish family, and I know, because I am from one. Despite the utter bewilderment, grief and pain that is felt by the characters after Rabbit's death, there are scenes of total hilarity. The comic element is what makes this story, without it, it would be too hard, too painful and just too much. I love the totally inappropriate remarks made, especially by Molly; Rabbit's mother ... just wait until you hear what she says to a Judge! I snorted so loud, it hurt. The younger generation of the Hayes family have inherited this wit too #AllDressedUpAndNoPlaceToGo.

The author deals with some really serious issues within the pages and she writes with such sensitivity despite the subject matter. Cancer is a disease that not only kills a person, it leaves its mark in many other ways too. It leaves twelve-year-old Bunny Hayes motherless, it leaves Molly and Jack with one child less and it eats away at their faith, in God, and in each other. It leaves the potential for further sickness for other members and it leaves a friend feeling a little on the edge of what had become her adoptive family. There are a myriad of issues to deal with and each character has their own, along with trying to help with everyone else's.

I could write forever about this book, but it's not my story to tell. It belongs to Anna McPartlin and she has given us this tremendous gift to savour.

This is a captivating and heart-rending story and I was totally involved and immersed. It really is just beautiful; sensitive, empathic and polished to perfection. Equally heart breaking and hilarious, it is the story about the power of love. It may break you.

Anna McPartlin is an international best selling author, currently published in 15 languages across
18 countries. Pack Up The Moon and The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes were nominated for Irish book awards. Rabbit Hayes also won a silver readers book award in Germany. In the UK it was a Simon Mayo and Richard and Judy book club pick and in the USA it was a Barnes & Nobel Book of the Month.
In the last few years Anna has been honing her TV scriptwriting skills working on medical drama ‘Holby City’ for the BBC (UK), legal drama ‘Striking Out,’ for RTE (IRE) and historical adaptation Jesus His Life for History Channel (USA).
Anna was nominated for an Irish Film & Television Academy award for her one off bi-lingual drama ‘School Run,’ and is currently in development with Hot Drop Films / Treasure Entertainment and funded by Screen Ireland for the film adaptation of ‘Rabbit Hayes.’ She is also in development for a crime series ‘Serious Crimes,’ with Blinder Productions (Virgin Media) in IRE. A historical crime drama with Noho Film & TV (UK) and ‘Richter,’ an RTE/NZ TV co-production crime drama with Blinder Productions.
Anna’s first children’s book the ‘Fearless Five’ came out May 2019. Her next fiction novel ‘Below The Big Blue Sky,’ is on shelves in UK and IRE in July 2020 and she is currently working on her ninth commercial fiction title.

Anna started out briefly as an actress and stand-up comedian but although her heart wasn’t in performance, she revels in storytelling and shining a light in dark places. Anna’s USP is in tackling difficult subjects with understanding, empathy and humour that spills onto every page.
Twitter @annamacpartlin

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