Friends And Neighbours – Ruth Torjussen

“Since her whole world had turned upside down, since her whole world had turned ugly; there was a gaping hole in her life the shape of which was female.”

Friends and Neighbours is a lovely vibrant book, where the main character Jenny struggles with life. Her best friend Sue has died, and Jenny finds it hard to pick up where she’d left off. Depression is weighing her down, and her friends have all moved away. Will Jenny be able to find new friends? The book starts with the arrival of the new neighbours, and Jenny’s hopes for a lovely young woman to have coffee with. That hope disappears along with the black puff of smoke from the new arrivals’ van.

I love how Ruth Torjussen, the author, has painted Jenny for us. Jenny is very relatable, even though she made me cringe quite a few times. The thing is, it made Jenny cringe as well, and I loved that. Knowing you’re being awful is one thing, stopping it is another thing! Ruth wonderfully explored Jenny’s feelings, and I could feel Jenny’s excitement at the prospect of a new friend. The way she idolises her new friend Trudi from college, imagining events with this friend from her new creative writing class.

In the light of Earth Day today, I think it’s a lovely perspective in a book, to incorporate sustainability in a small way.

Friends and Neighbours also deals with environmental issues. I didn’t feel like copying the long-suffering Lonny and his permaculture, but without realising, ideas do filter through. I loved the idea of growing vegetables even in small ways, like a bag on a balcony type thing. In the light of Earth Day today, I think it’s a lovely perspective in a book, to incorporate sustainability in a small way. It’s a rather big part of the book, but it’s also a lovely sideline, I feel; something more authors could maybe work with.

Lonny, Jenny’s husband, is a larger than life character. I loved the way he dealt with people. His character shines through in the way he supports and encourages Jenny. He is determined to help her to live again, and his exuberance comes out so well. The new neighbours aren’t what Jenny expected or hoped for, but Lonny does his best. Lonny is the one reaching out to the community too. Again, growing your own crops, being responsible for the planet, these are all issues Lonny deals with in such an encouraging way, I really enjoyed that.

Ruth Torjussen, the author

It is clear that Ruth Torjussen has a great passion for locally grown food, and as I said, there are lovely suggestions all through the book of how to start in small ways. Lonny’s enthusiasm at seeing food grow is infectious. I also was intrigued by some of the homecooked food that Jenny prepares. She uses food that Lonny has grown, and it would be wonderful to have some recipes to go with this lovely book.

It’s a funny, poignant and heart-warming book. It deals with so many different issues as well, like health care, supporting elderly people, friendship, loyalty and getting to know different people. I loved reading about the creative writing class as well, such a wonderful part of the story, as it makes Jenny think about who she is and her roles in her life.

I was given a review copy but was under no obligation or pressure to write a favourable review. These views are my own. The book does contain strong language as well as blasphemy, which spoilt it for me.

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