Some love stories change us for ever.
For the last seven years, Mary O’Connor has waited for her first love. Every evening she arrives at Ealing Broadway station and stands with a sign which simply says: ‘Come Home Jim’.
Commuters might pass her by without a second thought, but Mary isn’t going anywhere. Until an unexpected call turns her world on its head.
It will take the help of a young journalist called Alice, and a journey across the country for Mary to face what happened all those years ago, and to finally answer the question: where on earth is Jim?
This is a very unusual novel, well-written and thoughtful, and it handles mental health issues with compassion and understanding, and without judgement.
I did find Mary a bit frustrating at times, but she has made her own choices and has her own reasons, and she is firm in that, which gives her agency in a life that often feels pointless. Her work at the helpline gives her another dimension, and her burgeoning friendships there give us hope that there is more for her.
Alice is lovely, and her back and forth with Kit is a highlight of the novel, providing some needed lightness and humour. I felt too that Jim was drawn with sensitivity and care, and that his character was an interesting portrayal of the difference between what people might want and what they need.
An intelligent book, the author’s love for her characters is clear. I really enjoyed it.