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The Importance of Being Myrtle by Ulrika Jonsson

With four children, her recently suffering from a bad back, a bout of depression and a child with heart problems, it’s hard to see where Ulrika has found the time to write a novel. Is there a ghost writer in the midst we wonder? But no, this is totally her own work and with such an intricate plot and Ulrika admitting that she is the ultimate perfectionist, it is just not possible that she would have handed over her first novel to someone else to write. So what is the plot?

The story centres around Myrtle, a subservient wife to husband Austin to whom she has been married to for over forty years. During that time she has learnt to yield to his demands and her life has been one of meek submission to an authoritarian husband. But one morning the worst happens and everything changes in an instant. Austin collapses and dies on a bus, in the arms of stranger called Gianni. Gianni is a kind-hearted, short, solid man who makes it his mission to find the dead man’s family and share his sympathy. He finds Myrtle and brings her a pot plant but even as he steps over the threshold Myrtle is worrying about his muddy footprints on the carpet. What would Austin think? He would be furious that’s what. Can Myrtle ever escape him?

Even with Austin dead and buried, Myrtle is still trapped but this time by her newfound freedom. She feels she is nothing without Austin. Her husband defined her and now she has no friends to call upon. She begins to wonder whatever became of the carefree, passionate girl she used to be? Friendship can be found in the unlikeliest of places, though, and Gianni and Dorothy, her neighbour, bring the fragile and unhappy Myrtle into their vivid, warm world. But Austin’s death has revealed startling new questions Myrtle’s two daughters – Gillian and Beth want answered and a secret that has to be revealed. But can Gillian and Beth come to forgive the secret they are about to discover?

A wonderful first novel about secret lives and a second chance to live. Ulrika’s novel is heart warming, sad and full of hope.

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