In the beautiful, funny and moving second novel by the author of A Boy Made of Blocks, a father and his daughter discover that stories can save lives.
Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.
But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah's diagnosis with a heart condition that both of them know will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen on the brink of adulthood, that time is coming.
With the theatre under threat of closure, Hannah and Tom have more than one fight on their hands to stop the stories ending. But maybe, just maybe, one final day of magic might just save them both.
What did I think?
Keith Stuart certainly knows the way to my heart and my tear ducts. I read both A Boy Made of Blocks and Days of Wonder with tears rolling down my face towards the end. What's so unusual about that, you say? Well I wasn't crying because I was sad; I was just so unbelievably moved and hadn't realised that Hannah, Tom and the whole theatre gang had set up home in my heart.
Hannah knows that there's an expiry date on her life; she has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and one day her useless heart will cease to work. Hannah has the most amazing dad in Tom who will do anything for her - she is his whole world. Tom has brought Hannah up as a single dad but he hasn't been alone; Hannah has been brought up in Tom's theatre and this cast of colourful characters are her family.
Tom has a lot to contend with in addition to Hannah's illness when the council threaten the theatre with closure. The Willow Tree isn't just a theatre though, it feels like a home for so many people and it's a place where magic can happen when the curtain rises. Hannah needs to know that Tom will still have the theatre when she is gone and she is such an amazing young lady that she somehow finds the strength to fight the closure whilst fighting to keep her heart beating. It just shows you that when something is so important to you, you can find the strength from deep within you to fight for it.
Written from both Tom's and Hannah's perspectives, and interspersed with letters to 'Willow', I just knew that I would be in floods of tears at the end and I wasn't wrong. What surprised me was that my tears started before the end as the magic of the theatre was performed so beautifully through the words of Keith Stuart. There was never going to be a happy ending where cardiomyopathy is involved, but the strength and resolve of this young girl was so moving that I can't help but think of Hannah with a smile on my face.
There is definitely a strong sense of family in Keith Stuart's writing; not only parental love but the warmth of an extended family, whether related or not. The amazing characters all wear their hearts on their sleeves and I was drawn to them like a moth to a flame. I can't explain it but I felt part of the family myself and I felt every emotion with them from the heartbreak of loss to the explosion of first love. Such beautiful writing can't help but elicit a myriad of emotions in the reader and I greatly admire Keith Stuart for his ability to do this.
Days of Wonder is tremendously heartwarming and so unbelievably poignant; it reminds us to live for the day and enjoy every second of our precious lives. Keith Stuart has written such a completely stunning and emotional book that I recommend with all my heart. ❤
I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.
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About the author:
Keith Stuart is an author and journalist. His heartwarming debut novel, A Boy Made of Blocks, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and a major bestseller, and was inspired by Keith's real-life relationship with his autistic son. Keith has written for publications including Empire, Red and Esquire magazine, and is the former games editor of the Guardian. He lives with his wife and two sons in Frome, Somerset.
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