At school, her teachers had forever been telling her that she had a vivid imagination. Well, they’d been right. And now she was putting it to good use. Because imagining that Jamie was still around, she had discovered, was actually a really comforting thing to do. Like thumb-sucking or clutching a manky old security blanket, it just made her feel…better.
(from To the Moon and Back, page 18 in the ARC; finished version may be different)
To the Moon and Back might be more serious than Jill Mansell’s other romantic comedies, but I knew right away when I met her latest heroine, Ellie Kendall, that it was going to be my favorite of her novels I’ve read so far. Mansell has a way of making me laugh and cry at the same time, wish her characters were my BFFs, and almost believe I was meant to drop everything and move to England.
Ellie is enjoying being young and in love when her husband, Jamie, is killed in a car accident. Mansell introduces readers to the living Jaime, who is cute and fun and irons for his wife, so it is heartbreaking when Ellie loses him. The book fast-forwards to a little more than a year after Jamie’s death, when Ellie is on the brink of being able to move on with her life, but she still conjures his image and has conversations with him…conversations in which she has him talk to her in that playful way she enjoyed when he was alive. It’s so very sad, understandably, and Ellie is just so sweet that you can’t help but love her. So when the gorgeous Zack McLaren offers her a job as his personal assistant and she moves to a new neighborhood and makes new friends, you can’t help but hope that Ellie will open herself up to the prospect of enjoying life and loving again.
As always, Mansell creates a cast of secondary characters that makes it impossible to put the book down. There’s Tony, Ellie’s famous actor father-in-law who falls in love at first sight with an artist who can’t be his. There’s Roo, a whirlwind of excitement and chaos who’s in love with a married man. There’s Todd, Jamie’s best friend who still grapples with the guilt of surviving the accident that took Jaime’s life. And you can’t forget Geraldine, the feisty lady who lives next door to Zack, and Elmo, the rambunctious dog the two share.
To the Moon and Back is a lighthearted novel that takes on the heavy themes of unconditional and undying love, grief, adultery, and redemption. Mansell does justice to these without making the book too depressing, and there is still plenty of humorous banter to lighten the mood. This is the perfect example of “chick lit” with substance, a feel-good book that kept me turning the pages long into the night.
Check out my reviews of other books by Jill Mansell:
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