Friday 23 February 2024

The Lifeline by Tom Ellen #TheLifeline @TomEllen7 @HQstories #BookReview


Will is sleepwalking through life. He works a dead-end job and volunteers at an anonymous crisis line to avoid facing his own problems.

Annie is sure she has her five-year plan all worked out. But when things start falling apart, she just needs someone who will listen. . .

They’re practically strangers but soon Will and Annie rely on their regular phone calls, challenging each other to be brave and rebuild their lives.

They’ve found connection in the most unlikely of places but is it possible to fall in love with someone you’ve never met?

The Lifeline by Tom Ellen is published on 29 February 2024 by HQ. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I have enjoyed every minute that I've spent with these magical characters. Both Will and Annie are complex, a little flawed but so totally beautifully created. Their story is a mix of missed opportunities, regrets and new beginnings and Tom Ellen's writing is quite magical. 

Will's life is not how he expected or intended it to be. By day, he works in a store that sells extension leads and USB connectors in the centre of London and when he's not there, he's either at home, alone with just his cat for company, or volunteering at an anonymous crisis line. Taking calls from people who have nobody else to talk to .... a little like Will himself. 

Annie is a writer, although her current job is not exactly thrilling. She compiles quizzes and quick reads for an online page, but would really like to write a novel. She lives with her boyfriend Dom, and her relationship with her Mum and sister is strained since her beloved Dad died a couple of years ago. She is struggling more than she will admit and when she's tasked with tracking down a band that she interviewed years ago, she stumbles across the number for Green Shoots - an anonymous crisis line. 

It is not long before Will and Annie come to look forward to their regular phone calls. Each of them benefitting from their chats, with encouragement about being brave and how to make their lives better, they become friends, of sorts. 

The reader is aware of more about Will and Annie's backgrounds. We know about Will's past life as the lead singer in an indie band, we know about his best friend Joe and how much he cared for him, and misses him. We know that Will was once loud and sweary and afraid of nothing, we know that nowadays he never socialises and hates to think back to his younger life. We learn about Annie's relationship with her Dad and how it was his love of books and reading that encouraged her own. We find out why she and her mother and sister are so estranged and we feel the pain that both of them endure. 

The reader realises where this story is going long before the main characters have any clue, but it doesn't go smoothly and there were times when I felt my eyes begin to water, and had a lump in my throat as I desperately wanted Will and Annie to realise what was happening, and what had happened in the past. 

Whilst this is, with no doubt, a beautiful romance, the author also deals sensitively and empathically with various darker issues, including mental illness, grief, suicide and loneliness. The details of some of the anonymous calls to Green Shoots, and the reaction of the volunteers who listen is skilfully and eloquently described. His creation of friendships, most especially between Will and Dev, and Will and Tanvi are just perfectly done, that utter feeling of total trust that you find with certain special people is a joy to read about. 

If you have read and loved books by Jamie Fewery or David Nicholls, you will adore The Lifeline. It is warm and uplifting with characters that you will fall in love with yourself. Highly recommended. 

Tom Ellen is the co-author of three critically acclaimed Young Adult novels: Lobsters
(which was shortlisted for The Bookseller's inaugural YA Book Prize), Never Evers and Freshers. 

His books have been widely translated and are published in 15 countries. 

He is a regular contributor to Viz magazine, and as a journalist he has written for Cosmopolitan, Empire, Evening Standard Magazine, Glamour, NME, ShortList, Time Out, Vice and many more. 

All About Us was his debut adult novel. Tom lives in Paris.

X @TomEllen7

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