Part fairy tale, part love story and wholly exceptional, Maybe One Day starts with a funeral and ends with… well that would be telling. No spoilers. But it is without doubt a journey well worth making.
Jess’s carefully controlled little world is rocked by the discovery of an old box of letters hidden carefully away in her mother’s dusty attic. After her initial bewilderment and shock, Jess determines to right old wrongs and find absolution for herself as she embarks on a deeply personal double odyssey.
First, though, she has to find the courage to face a daunting spiritual pilgrimage into her own damaged past before embarking on a physical journey across England, Ireland and beyond in the quest for redemption that will test her grit and fortitude.
Like any fairy-tale heroine, Jess finds some helpful companions along the way in the unlikely shapes of her sweet – but closeted – cousin Michael, repressed by his stuffy, hidebound parents, and activist solicitor Belinda, a whip-smart and kickass-tough cookie whose prickly carapace hides a heart of pure softened ghee.
While award-winning novelist Debbie Johnson may be justly acclaimed as the author of the Comfort Food Cafe series, in her new novel she moves away from the bubbly feel-good and into the darker, skewed world of dysfunctional families, mental breakdown and shattered lives.
Maybe One Day veers sharply between optimism and despair, comedy and tragedy in a deeply emotional story that goes in moments from laugh-out-loud funny to heart-rendingly sorrowful.
With this poignant tale of love, hope and fortitude and full of finely rounded eccentric characters, Debbie Johnson has a real winner on her hands.
(Orion, paperback, £7.99)