‘To be home without her was to ache all over with a grief so fierce it could bruise his living flesh’
[ About the Book ]
Jenna Walker has suddenly found herself with no job, no boyfriend, nowhere to live – and she’s been wondering for a while now if, apart from her beloved cat Bertie, she has anything to live for. The last thing she wants is to turn up on her sister’s doorstep, but that feels like her only option…
Rosie Walker spends a lot of her time thinking about the life she used to have. These days she’s stretched too thin, and she’s not sure she can cope with taking care of another person. If only one thing in her life would work out the way she wants it to…
David is Rosie’s next-door neighbour. A retired doctor, he has had a big idea, one inspired by his late wife June: a community garden project for those who are struggling.
The sisters reluctantly agree to take part, even though they’re sure it’ll be a waste of time. How could fixing up an overgrown plot of land make anyone’s life better? But as the group works together to bring the garden back to life, new friendships blossom and old wounds start to heal. And Jenna and Rosie come to realise that the world around them might have more to offer than they had once believed.
[ My Review ]
Glass Houses by Melanie Murphy was published May 5th with Hachette Ireland and is described as ‘a heartfelt, uplifting novel about family, growth, friendship and hope.‘ Partially inspired by a true story, Glass Houses is about finding one’s place in the world and learning to be comfortable in one’s own skin.
Jenna and Rosie Walker are two sisters who have taken very different paths in life. Rosie, on paper, appears to have it all but her reality is a very different one. Jenna has yet to find her feet and is struggling daily to get out of bed. When Jenna finds herself homeless and with no support she has no option but to come knocking on the door of Rosie’s plush apartment. With her bedraggled and unwell cat Bertie by her side, Jenna rocks up to Rosie’s home with no expectations, just a need for temporary shelter. She has given up on herself and has no focus or motivation to do anything. Rosie had a very successful career and but had to make unexpected changes in her life. Now working in a bar, she has a huge mortgage and a sister with no direction and Rosie is feeling under pressure to stay afloat.
Retired GP, David Dolan is Rosie’s neighbour. David left his beloved home, Avalon, after the death of his wife June four years ago, moving into this modern apartment with his son, Peter. David has been looking back over his career as a doctor and has started to question some of the medical techniques he incorporated into his daily practice. Now, with a sense of guilt, he wonders if he should have had a more hands-on approach and been more amenable to those who had looked for his assistance. June had seen the world very differently to David and following her death he considers the idea that perhaps June had been right all along.
Peter Dolan is an online musical success story . Now on the verge of a tour, he carries doubts and insecurities about his voice and his stage presence. Being behind a camera is one thing but stepping out into the real world again is a much scarier prospect. Peter is very much aware of the possible impact all this exposure could have on him but is not prepared for what unfolds.
In the garden of David and Peter’s beloved family home is a glass house that was originally built for June. Now a wreck, David has a plan to bring it back to its former glory. David hasn’t returned to his home since June died but now the time has come. He gathers a group of individuals, including (and with some persuasion) Jenna, Rosie and Peter, and encourages them to come together over gardening.
‘In the middle of the garden sits the old Victorian glasshouse – the reason we’re all here – screaming at the life all around it. The ornate glass and iron building is bigger than I expected. It’s white, with a brick base, and it’s calling out to be rescued from ruin: some of the windows are smashed, there are more leaves growing on it than in it and the glass is decorated with lashings of white bird droppings and spray paint’
Each person in this motley crew is struggling with a mental health issue. (In the opening pages of Glass Houses there is an author’s note highlighting these as potential triggers for some readers.) David hopes that through gardening therapy and working together outdoors, this bunch of strangers can relate, open up and perhaps aid each other in their recovery. Through hard work, tears, meditation and open conversations, David has decided to adopt June’s approach to living, and is determined to fix these people and perhaps himself along the way.
There are many complex themes running through this novel and, at times, Glass Houses does over-simplify certain scenarios but Melanie Murphy’s heart is clearly in the right place, creating a charming, and ultimately uplifting, read. The setting of Avalon is beautifully depicted with a magical quality where one could believe that anything is possible. As each individual embarks on their own personal journey, the healing process begins to unfold. Nature has a way of grounding people and helping them to explore different paths. The chattels of life that once were important are no longer of such relevance and the roots of new friendships are planted. Ideas are seeded alongside the plants and the clouds shift ever so slightly.
Glass Houses is a sweet tale, one that evokes a mix of emotions, an affecting read in so many ways. With a mix of ordinary, extraordinary and flawed individuals, it is a story of self-discovery, of blossoming friendships while also examining the complexities of life in all its varieties and colours.
[ Bio ]
Melanie Murphy is an award-winning lifestyle Youtuber and best-selling author from Ireland. With over 850K followers across social media, Melanie is a virtual best friend for those looking for advice on sexuality, relationships, confidence and mental health.
Named Blogosphere’s ‘Influencer of the Year 2018’ and Gossies ‘Best Social Media Star of 2020’ Melanie’s Youtube videos have amassed nearly 68 million views from an international online family that love her warm, honest and relatable content.
She is the author of two bestselling books: Fully Functioning Human (Almost), a memoir and life-guide, and If Only, her debut novel. Glass Houses is her second novel.
Website ~ https://www.melaniemurphy.ie/