Title: How to Mend a Broken Heart
Author: Anna Mansell
Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction
Diversity: Mental health /
Publication date: 01 Mar 2017
Life is good for nurse Kat. That is until the man she intended to marry legs it, she’s unexpectedly promoted to a position with too much responsibility, and a patient arrives on her ward under strange circumstances.
Susan is a mystery. She refuses to speak or interact with anyone, she’s obsessed with a book of fairy tales, and the only name in her diary is that of Rhys – a plumber she barely knows.
Down-to-earth Rhys is trying to get his life back on track after the death of his beloved brother. His mum is his priority, and she needs him as much as he needs her. Or at least she did, until she starts disappearing, leaving him to find comfort in the form of his brother’s girlfriend.
Complicated is an understatement.
As the lives of these three lost strangers intertwine, will they find a way to lay ghosts past, present and future to rest? And when the chance comes to mend their broken hearts, will they be brave enough to take it?
Disclaimer: ARC Copy provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review
Review: (without spoilers)
The best thing about this book is the lack of bullshit (read: page fillers) before the story really starts. That’s the first thing I liked about this book; the prologue and first chapter started out incredibly strong and set the tone for the rest of the book and the author did not disappoint. There was rarely a chapter that wasn’t integral for our understanding of the story that was unfolding before us. The author really stuck to the most important rule to write a successful book: kill you darlings.
Although the book does branch out a bit to introduce us to side-characters that have nothing to do with the core story(Michelle, Lou, and James will always hold a dear place in my heart), it still feels important. Like, getting to know more about the people in their lives will make us understand why they behave the way they do. I felt like this was incredibly important because otherwise I would be incredibly bitter over Kat and Rhys’ behaviour.
The book is written from the points of view of the three main characters; Susan, Kat, and Rhys. Despite first person being my absolutely least favourite writing style, this book didn’t seem to annoy me. I attribute this largely to the author’s flair for bending the English language to her will; write a non-bullshit story in a non-bullshit sort of way. The writing was simple and appropriate for the heavy themes that transpire within the tales of these three lives.
Within a few pages we find out about Rhys’ brother David that has committed suicide not long ago. Rhys also has a mother that has started vanishing without a trace, and now he’s been tangled into the life of Susan. Despite all this doom that looms over Rhys he manages to be an incredibly enigmatic character that seems to put his foot in his mouth every time he speaks. I found him incredibly funny, although a bit too growly (mate stop growling at nothing all the time).
Kat is a hot mess. She’s the one of the youngest acting ward sister at Sheffield Hospital where Susan is admitted and takes her job very seriously that is completely torpedoed by the shenanigans that Rhys and Susan rope her into. Her professionalism is further deteriorated by the flirty consultant Mark, her best friend and bride-to-be Lou, and the slithering snake Daniel that is also the ex-boyfriend that broke her heart.
Susan is one of many patients in the ward where Kat works, but she is very significant in the way that she refuses to speak. Although there are no medical indications for her lack of speech she seems unwilling to communicate with anyone. Except to Rhys by writing him a note to collect a fairy tale book for her that sets off an incredibly complicated and cathartic journey for all the characters involved. In a beautiful turn of events(or shit storm if Kat were to write this review) Rhys, Kat, and Susan’s lives become intertwined in an unforgettable tale of loss, love, and forgiveness.
Some issues I did have with the book was how some themes were presented; mainly adoption and depression. Somehow I felt like giving a child up for adoption was demonised, especially by Rhys. Although, I understand why he has the right to feel like that, the notion was never challenged. Adoption is a very tough and brave thing to go through; it is very sad but there are so many different underlying reasons for adoption and THAT should be demonised instead. Yes, yes, the book kind of tried to put the blame on something else but I still felt like it would be a bit insensitive if an adopted person read it.
Up until the end I felt like the author showed perfect respect for the topic of depression and her indirect way of addressing it. I don’t know if it was just easier to round up the story, but it felt like depression was made so simple and given such an abrupt end. “Something that was missing has been found, now everyone is happy, see!” No, depression and committing suicide is not that simple. This is coming from my work at the psychiatric ward, my medical education, and my psychiatry rotation. I just wish the author would have included a bit more in the end towards the importance of rehabilitation and medication. They are widely stigmatised in society and therefore many patients choose to leave both their rehabilitation and go off their medications. We need to normalise these things in our society and the best way is through our literature. That’s why I do expect author’s to be mindful of this and include it in their works.