2 out of 4 stars
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Finding love after divorce can be difficult, but Carol managed to find Speed later in her life. She loves everything about him and can't wait to be his wife, but first, she needs to meet his elderly father. The pair head to Parma, Italy, for a long-overdue visit.
Speed's dad, Mr. Arnilido, welcomes Carol with open arms. Despite the familial tragedies he's faced over the years, it hasn't hardened his heart, and he is keen on showing Carol and Speed a good time. During their stay, Carol is visited by the ghost of Speed's sister, Seely, who was murdered as a child. Carol feels deeply connected to Seely but wonders what she is trying to communicate.
The murder was never solved, but Carol has an inkling that Seely is trying to tell her something.
Seely's Shoes by Gail Heller is a novella comprised of about seventy pages. Because of the short length, readers will find themselves quickly thrust into the book's main conflict. It's a story about love, tragedy, and forgiveness. Told from the first-person perspective, it follows Carol as she tries to make sense of her new ability.
After reading the blurb about Seely's Shoes, I was excited to dive deep into this book that boasted elements of mystery, romance, and a taste of the supernatural. I had visions of myself voraciously reading every word. Instead, I was more interested in putting the book down. I was quite disappointed in the lack of character development—especially in regards to Carol. For a woman who abruptly started seeing a dead girl's face, she didn't seem to react the way I would have expected. She simply welcomed the visions and didn't seem phased by them. If I suddenly started developing a sixth sense, I would be experiencing a cluster of feelings—fear, instability, etc. I would definitely be questioning my sanity, but the author never dug deeper into how Carol was feeling.
Another thing that I disliked about the novella was the author's tendency to change Speed's name. In the beginning, he was introduced as Speed which is a nickname. Then, once they arrive in Italy, the author starts calling him Spano, which was his name given at birth. Throughout the next several pages, the author keeps flip-flopping between the two names causing unnecessary confusion.
While I did find myself pining for more character development, the story's redeeming quality was the emphasis on family and community. Family members with volatile relationships were able to forgive one another and bond over food. There was also a strong sense of support between the Arnilidos and the citizens of Parma.
The book had no spelling and grammar issues and seemed professionally edited, which was another redeeming quality. With that being said, I have chosen to give the book a rating of two out of four stars. A book with no character development is a deal-breaker for me, and that is why I couldn't award the writing with a higher score.
While the novella was found in the romance section, I would not recommend the book to readers looking for a conventional love story. The book is less about the relationship between the two characters and more about an unsolved crime. Readers who love books with a bit of mystery, Seely's Shoes may be a palatable choice. The book has no profanity or explicit content and is suitable for readers of all ages.
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