Be prepared to fall completely in love with Willow Havens, her mother Polly, and all the other characters in the eclectic mix provided by Kathy Hepinstall in The Book of Polly. From the very first chapter, we learn that Polly is not the average mother. Along with being very much older than her daughter’s classmates’ mothers, she has all the spunk and sass a reader could possibly hope for. From her feuds with the neighbors to her battle with the Bear (her term for cancer), it’s absolutely impossible not to be drawn completely into her story through Willow’s search for answers to the secrets her mother has kept locked away from her.
Kathy Hepinstall’s writing is also a complete delight. In addition to the beautifully crafted cast of characters (I particularly enjoyed Phoenix), her use of language to convey emotions, develop those characters, and evoke bouts of both laughter AND tears created an overall tone for The Book of Polly that made me wish the book went on forever. My favorite books are the ones that combine beautiful language with a sense of humor and heartwarming characters, and Hepinstall mastered it in this book. Where else can you find a character described as having “a permanently conflicted expression, as though, deep inside her, someone was trying to bathe a cat,” which completely nails that description in the most unexpected way?
Furthermore, as much as I enjoyed Polly’s story, I enjoyed Willow’s telling of it and her own development as a young woman just as much. Her relationship with her mother left me completely frustrated at times and in tears at others. Willow’s search for a family identity and desire for closeness with her siblings was both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and the only I know to truly describe this book is with two words–perfectly perfect.