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Helen Rolfe’s latest is feel-good female fiction to keep you sane in lockdown

The Kindness Club on Mapleberry Lane by Helen Rolfe

A grandmother with regrets and a secret wish, a daughter with no job and long-standing resentments, and an angry teenage granddaughter kicking out at life.

Meet three troubled members of a family whose emotional journey from estrangement to unity is set to win the hearts of readers looking for a much-needed escape from the fears and dark days of the pandemic.

The Kindness Club on Mapleberry Lane is the enchanting new novel from Helen Rolfe, the much-loved author of feelgood women’s fiction and a writer whose stories feature idyllic rural locations where problems are real, broken hearts are mended, and love and friendship blossom.

Employing all the warmth and charm of Maeve Binchy, and a special brand of kindness that she has made her own, Rolfe weaves together elements of mystery, romance, family relationships and the warmth of community in a story guaranteed to bring laughter, tears and miles of smiles.

Seventy-one-year-old Veronica Beecham’s cottage is the neatest house on Mapleberry Lane. A place for everything and everything in its place is her motto. But inside the wisteria-covered walls, Veronica has a secret… she has hardly left her perfect home in years.

Veronica’s only lifeline for the last few years have been her good neighbour Charlie, a paramedic, and his bubbly little daughter, eight-year-old Layla. Their warmth and friendship have been a blessing and although there are lots of things she wants to forget, she also has lots to be thankful for.

But then her 15-year-old granddaughter Audrey – a girl she hardly knows – arrives on the doorstep from her home in Cheshire and Veronica’s orderly life is turned upside down. Shy and lonely, Audrey has been suspended from school and is struggling to find her place in the world.

Audrey’s mother, 39-year-old Sam, who has been estranged from Veronica since she married, was a stay-at-home mum until her husband met another woman and they got divorced. And now Sam, with her bruised heart, has been made redundant to add to her problems.

As a bond begins to form between Veronica and her granddaughter, Audrey develops a plan to give her gran the courage to reconnect with the community… they will form a kindness club, with one generous action a day to help someone in the village, and perhaps help each other at the same time.

‘Three generations of women from one wounded family must learn to get to know each other, face up to their personal demons, and rediscover the bonds of love and family’

With the effects of their small acts of kindness beginning to ripple outwards, both Veronica and Audrey find that with each passing day, they feel a little braver. But there’s just one task left before the end of what turns out to be a very unexpected year for them all… to make Veronica’s own secret wish come true.

Three generations of women from one wounded family must learn to get to know each other, face up to their personal demons, and rediscover the bonds of love and family that tie them together in this emotion-packed story.

Uncertainty, longing, misunderstanding, self-discovery and second chances all play important roles in The Kindness Club on Mapleberry Lane as Veronica, Sam and Audrey find the comfort they have been seeking in family, friendship and community.

Rolfe knows what makes people tick – their fears, their disappointments and their need for love – and this sparkling concoction, set in the kind of charming rural village where many of us would love to live, serves up lashings of domestic drama, a big helping of romance, some essential soul-searching, and a cast of adorable characters.

So if it’s a breath of fresh country air, a warm hug, and a comforting slice of community spirit that you’re seeking, head off to beautiful Mapleberry and you’ll definitely feel the love!

(The Kindness Club on Mapleberry Lane by Helen Rolfe, Orion, paperback, £7.99)

Pam Norfolk
Pam Norfolk has been writing book reviews for over ten years, including for the Wordsworth Trust. She has also worked as a reporter and sub-editor on regional and national newspapers.

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