Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Other Half of my Heart - Stephanie Butland

About the book...
“It smelled bittersweetly of sourdough, and there was the trace of hot, fresh bread in the air. She took a deep breath and unlocked the door”

Fifteen years ago Bettina May’s life’s veered off course in one disastrous night. Still reeling from the shock of losing everything she thought was hers, Bettina opens a bakery in a village and throws herself into the comfort of bread-making.

She spends her days kneading dough and measuring ingredients. She meets someone. She begins to heal.
Until someone who knows what happens that night walks into Bettina's bakery. In the pause of a heartbeat, fifteen years disappear and Bettina remembers a time she thought was lost for ever . . .
About the author...
Stephanie Butland's first two books were about her dance with cancer. She then turned to fiction, and Letters to My Husband is the first of two novels set in a small English town.

Stephanie lives with her family near the sea in the North east of England. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she's not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. For fun, she reads, knits, sews, bakes, and spins.

How I Said Bah! To Cancer: A Guide to Thinking, Laughing, Living and Dancing Your Way Through is Stephanie's story of how she learned to dance with cancer: through thinking strategies, a proactive approach to treatment, determination to keep the rest of her life going, and keeping her sense of humour (mostly) to hand. It was published by Hay House in 2011. Her second book Thrive: The Bah! Guide to Wellness After Cancer, was published in September 2012.

Stephanie's debut novel Letters to My Husband was published by Transworld in 2014.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @under_blue_sky or her website www.stephaniebutland.com

My thoughts...
Many thanks to Sarah at Transworld for both my ecopy and physical copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I am more than happy to give.  When I was asked to be part of the blog tour I was beyond pleased.

My expectations of this book were high.  I had read Stephanie's debut Letters to My Husband when it was known as Surrounded by Water and have been tapping my fingers waiting for a second novel from her ever since.  As I closed the last page and I had to sit quietly, taking in all that I had read.  I must have felt every emotion possible reading that book, from helplessness and sadness to happiness and elation. 


The Other Half of My Heart was just as intense and it was clear pretty early on that the main character Bettina May was a workaholic.  Absorbed in building up her new business, a bakery, filling every minute of the day working on and in it, leaving little time for anything or anyone else.  She did form a tentative relationship, more of a friendship really with her neighbour Rufus and at first it was difficult to see why she held him at arms length. Before too long though it became apparent she was living the life she was as a way of coping and blocking out the past.  Her story unfolds with the past revealed bit by bit by the author who split the chapters between the present day and fifteen years previous when life for Tina, as she was known then, was pretty much perfect.  Spending almost all her time at the stables where she worked, that were owned by the parents of her boyfriend Roddy.  She had everything going for her until one dreadful night when a tragic turn of events shattered the lives of herself and those closest to her.


Stephanie created characters that really got under my skin and made me question what I would have done in the same circumstances.  Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and how we react depends upon the people and characters we were to begin with.  This is a heart breaking story that demonstrates all too clearly how a tragic accident can send ripples way beyond the point of impact.  A truly desperate set of circumstances shattered the lives of two families, everyone coping with the fallout in different ways until the past comes back to meet the present and Bettina and those she was closest too must re-visit Tina's past.


This for me was a compulsive read that was at times quite harrowing but also very uplifting - a story that demonstrates quite strongly that nothing is unsurmountable when faced with true love.  Trust and communication play a huge part in this novel and prove that it's best to face your fears head on.  Time is a great healer and distance and space are sometimes needed to see clearly but it's sometimes best to face your demons head on.


All in all a beautiful story told in such a way I felt genuine empathy for all the characters. When it ended I was left with a warm glow, whilst quietly cheering and clapping - I genuinely cared for the characters as I would any close friends. Stephanie has without doubt got the knack of getting under my skin.  An author who seems to understand that when life falls apart and is full of tragedy, grief and guilt the power of love, trust and friendship can bind it all back together again.


This novel delivered exactly what I expected and more - providing escapism with more than a touch of realism.  I highly recommend both this book but more importantly this author, a lady with huge talent.

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