“The Love Story of Missy Carmichael” by Beth Morrey
Reviewed by Yvonne Selander, collection development manager
Millicent Carmichael lives each day hoping that something interesting will happen so she has a reason to email her son Alistair. But nothing ever does. Until the day she goes walking in the park and a harried mother with a thick Irish accent and her young son stop to chat. A tentative date is made to meet again in a week to watch the fish in the pond get shocked and stunned so they can be moved to another, cleaner pond. It’s something to do at least. And although odd, it’s something interesting to email her son about.
The date is set and, to Missy’s surprise, the young mother and son show up. So begins one friendship that spirals into another … and another … and another. Missy’s calendar is filling up, she ends up taking in a dog for a woman she’s never met, inviting people into her home, and turning her world upside down. At least she has things to write her son about.
Missy seems at once every year of her 79-80 years as well as younger and older. A circumstance I think anyone in middle age or older often experiences within their own head. This is a woman who has become socially isolated after she loses her husband, her son moves to Australia with his new wife, and she has an awful fight with her daughter. Her whole world revolved around her husband and his career and her children and their needs.
As the only one left in her home her days become rote, and getting dressed and out of bed in the morning becomes difficult. While a chance encounter in the park is the beginning of Missy’s reconnection with the world it is the addition of a dog named Bob, albeit temporarily until her owner can retrieve her, that makes her life really open up. Bob, aka Bobby, forces Missy out of the house a number of times a day and introduces her to the characters at the local dog park.
As her social circle begins to form and expand, we get to witness Missy open up and bloom. Through flashbacks to her past and her inner monologue about her present, the reader knows this woman and her hardships and successes. There is a lot of talk about self love right now and here is a woman who needs to practice it!
There is a slight shock toward the end that explains some of Missy’s behavior and worries. And fair warning — a dog is a main character in the book. As readers, we unfortunately know what that means. Aside from that, this book is a joy; a character study of a year in the life of a woman recreating herself. It feels good to witness a person grow and mend broken relationships, including the one with herself, later in life.
This book firmly fits into the new Coming of Old genre I will talk about more in a few days when I review “The Big Finish.” If “The Love Story of Missy Carmichael” sounds like a must read for you, be sure to check back for that post.