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Last Bite of the Cherry Paperback – 20 Oct 2012
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About the Author
Mags Cullingford, escaping the rumpus of a university department, decided to generate uproar she could control. She realized a long-term ambition to write fiction. Although 'romantic' is not how she would describe herself, Last Bite of the Cherry is a love story, with issues and then some. Otherwise there would be little fun in either writing about, or reading of the characters she conjures up, or so she thinks. Mags is a founding member of the indie publishing group, The New Romantics 4, has completed her second novel, and is currently working on a third.
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The book opens in 1969, Monica Sommers is just fourteen, she witnesses her parents arguing, then a near fatal accident. A distressing time for the young Monica.
A couple of chapters later and it is now the year 2000. Monica is in training to be a nun, is involved with a refuge for abused women and she also counsels. She hopes to help Rosaleen Westlake, a women suffering from depression. Through their sessions Monica finds similarities in their lives and this unleashes her own past.
The book hops back and forth with time-slips throughout Monica's life. Much of it involves her re-telling these events to her very good friend Father Malachy O'Brien.
This is an intense read, often dialogue lead, but with sprinkles of rich descriptions as the storyline builds in layers. There are also some enjoyable characters who bring their own wide ranging local dialects to the book. I particularly liked Dora.
However, from the very first scene it was quite apparent that this was something different. This wasn't going to be a straightforward romance. There were darker layers to this story. I was intrigued.
It's the story of two women, born on the same day, and the men who love them. Put like that it sounds simple enough, but it isn't. Monica and Rosaleen have stories to tell, ostensibly very different, but connected by shared experiences, grief, lust, guilt and love.
Monica is poised to take her final vows to become a nun, working as a counsellor and dealing with abused women and children at a refuge. Rosaleen is one of her clients, brought to her by her dear friend Father Malachy. Rosaleen is desperate to talk but afraid and hesitant to share, drowning in guilt and sorrow. As Monica listens, over the course of several sessions Rosaleen tells her story, and it invokes memories for Monica of her own life and lost loves.
Monica's great love, complicated yet so simple. Will loves her, but there is another side to him and she finds it hard to trust him. Their agreement is a straightforward one. They will do what they have to do and come back to each other. Monica recalls her life with him, a life in which she was loved but struggled with jealousy and fear.
Rosaleen is also loved, but has done some things that have eaten her up with guilt and are destroying her chance of happiness. Her tale helps Monica to lay some ghosts of her own and open up to her own "counsellor", the rather lovely Malachy. But he has his own secret, and is just waiting for the right moment to confess.
The story is told through flashbacks, skipping through time to important episodes in each of the women's lives. It's a sensual feast, bursting with beautifully descriptive prose and imagery. You can feel the sun on your back, taste the delicious foods they are eating, catch the scent of the flowers within the pages.
Last Bite of the Cherry is intelligently and thoughtfully written, taking its time to unfold, revealing the lives of Monica and Rosaleen in a gentle manner which draws the reader in and engages every emotion.
It's hard to put down as you peel away the layers of these two women's lives, seeing beneath the surface to the turmoil that has brought them to this moment, to their first meeting. They were deeply loved, but it didn't protect them from pain. Cherries have stones. But they also have the potential to grow into "the loveliest of trees". Can Monica and Rosaleen learn the lessons of the past, forgive their own mistakes and allow themselves to be loved again? Two women - strangers born on the same day - may yet be the other's means of salvation.
I absolutely adored this book and I'm only sorry it took me so long to get round to reading it. Magnificent.
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Most recent customer reviews
It's not the usual love story but more of a journey of self-discovery for the main characters.Read more