This is a beautifully understated book about two lonely souls who are searching for, if not necessarily love, then certainly companionship.
Jamie McCloone is a bachelor farmer in his early 40s, living alone in rural Ireland since the death of his beloved Uncle Mick and Aunt Alice. It's fair to say he's set in his ways - the farmhouse is a tip and his personal hygiene leaves a lot to be desired. With a little encouragement from his best friends, Rose and Paddy McFadden, Jamie decides to look for love via the lonely hearts column in his local newspaper. The lucky lady whose ad Jamie responds to is 41 year old spinster Lydia Devine, tired of being at the beck and call of her domineering mother and anxious to find a `plus one' to take to the wedding of an old schoolfriend.
The compassionate portrayal of Jamie and Lydia's search for a soulmate is heartwarmingly funny and achingly poignant. The cast of weird and wonderful supporting characters is just as vivid and endearing as the two leads, and the repartee between them is hilarious at times. It's not all laughs though, there are flashbacks to the brutal children's homes of the 1930s where one young boy is living a hellish existence at the hands of the Catholic authorities.
Christina McKenna has a wonderful ear for dialogue and a talent for observing awkward social situations and unspoken intimacies between friends (the scene near the end with Jamie and Paddy in the barn was just heartbreaking). I finished the book with a tear in my eye but also a bit of a warm and fuzzy feeling too. I absolutely loved this tender and humorous story about two lonely people, which was perfectly balanced with darker moments of pathos and sadness. I'm sure it's going to make my top 5 books of the year.