Meet Irene Nylander, a frumpy housewife from Finland... and a yo-yo dieter. She feels trapped in an unhappy marriage, looking after her domineering mother-in-law and living vicariously through romantic movies.
Meanwhile, in Florence, Mimi Kavanough’s star is rising. She has the body of a Barbie princess, the iron will of an army sergeant - and Hollywood in her sights.
On her fiftieth birthday, Irene discovers her husband is having an affair. Devastated, she prays for a way out: she wants to die.
In heaven, a mischievous angel called Aaron hears her prayers. He decides to make Irene and Mimi swap bodies.
How will the two women cope with their unexpected, and very different, second lives? And will Aaron’s meddling get him evicted from heaven?
What will happen if he has to transform into a human being and live on Earth?
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HALL WAYS REVIEW:
“The Thursday when Irene Nylander’s first life comes
to an end is sunny.”
What a great opening line to a story that kept me reading, entertained, and fully engaged from start to finish! In her latest book, author Katarina West has won me over again. The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice takes readers on a journey (several, actually!) that explores themes familiar to most of us at one point or another in life, and it is in making those connections between reader and character where West’s writing really shines.
Whether in the same season of life as main characters Irene or Mimi -- or somewhere else entirely – readers can see glimpses of themselves in West’s brilliantly written characters. The issues and emotions her characters are confronting are heavy, but the book is infused with plenty of humor to off-set those times. Often, it was in the little one-liners that I giggled and related. (Like when a famished Irene says that a chunk of bread is “so tasty that she feels like crying.” Yeah. Been there, done that, felt that.)
The ideas of angels among us and people switching bodies aren’t new, but West takes her premise in an interesting and unexpected direction that is truly memorable. Heaven is possibly as messy and complicated as Earth, and angels like Aaron are as flawed as humans. Readers will never be confused as to who is who once Irene and Mimi switch bodies because West focuses on the mind of the occupant, not the body occupied. Admittedly, some of the hilarious parts of the book are in each discovering her new body.
What is beautiful about Aaron, Irene, and Mimi is that each grows over the course of the story. It is in that growth that I became attached to the characters despite my not initially liking certain aspects of them. Since this is the first book in the Angel Aid series, I look forward to seeing how they continue to evolve -- especially Irene since even at fifty, she is reinventing herself.
Katarina West has a distinct writing style, and in The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, it’s a little chummier with the reader than in her other books (Witchcraft Couture, Absolute Truth, for Beginners) This casual tone is fun, but don’t think for a minute that it’s not well done. The Helsinki and Little Heaven settings are wonderfully detailed and easy to imagine, but it’s not just in her descriptions of place where readers will revel; some of her sentences where readers are quietly observing really pack a punch.
“His desperate murmur mixes with the chanting. . .
and together they form the most beautiful symphony,
a rhapsody of hope and change.”
West mentions current celebrities and products which places the story in the here and now, but I am undecided as to whether I like that or not. On the one hand, there is no question about the time frame, but on the other hand, it dates the book and may make it less relevant later. (I suppose since it works for me today, I won’t worry about other peoples’ tomorrows!) Kudos also go out to West for a cleanly edited book that allowed me to read and enjoy the story without distraction.
The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice feels real, even with a fantastical element to it. It left me feeling good. Thoughtful. Optimistic. Hopeful. . . and forgiving. Through the characters’ travails, I realized I need to be more forgiving and accepting of myself and others. We are all in this life together, after all.
Thank you to Katarina West for inviting me to be a beta reader on this book and then providing me an eBook copy of the finished product in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.
KATARINA WEST is the author of Witchcraft Couture and Absolute Truth, For Beginners. She was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family that in addition to humans consisted of dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, canaries, rabbits and – thanks to her biology teacher mother – stuffed owls and squirrels.
She spent time travelling in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and went on to study at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy.
Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance.