A love story about things…
Gwen’s life has stalled. She’s in her mid-thirties, perpetually single, her friends are busy procreating in the country and conversations with her parents seem to revolve entirely around herbaceous borders and the council’s wheelie-bin timetable. Above all she’s lonely. But then, isn’t everyone?
When Gwen’s made redundant from a job she drifted into a decade ago and never left, she realises it’s time to make a change. Over what might be the best – and most solitary – meal she’s ever eaten, Gwen vows to find something meaningful to do with her life, reconnect with her family and friends – and finally book herself a dentist appointment.
Her search for meaning soon leads her to volunteer in a local charity shop where she both literally and metaphorically unloads her emotional baggage. With the help of the weird and wonderful people she meets in the shop and the donated items bursting with untold stories that pass through its doors, Gwen must finally address the events and choices that led her to this point and find a way to move forward with bravery, humanity and more regular dental care.
Preloved by Lauren Bravo is a captivating book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The main character, Gwen, is relatable and likeable, even though she has her own issues that can be frustrating at times. However, this only adds to her character’s believability and realism. Although I felt like I didn’t get to know her fully, her story was still enjoyable to read.
The book follows Gwen as she struggles to come to terms with sudden unemployment and decides to volunteer at a local charity shop. There, she meets a fantastic cast of characters that make the book a joy to read. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Haringey, an area of London that I currently reside in but rarely see in literature. Gwen’s shrewd observations of life as a 30-something in London were also entertaining and relatable.
The plot focuses on Gwen’s journey as she comes to terms with her breakup with Ryan many years ago, and separately, addresses the grief she and her parents have had to deal with. The final third of the book was particularly moving and highlighted the different ways people process grief.
The short chapters that intersperse the main Gwen chapters tell the story of different people who use the charity shop for various reasons. The author’s skillful observations of people and their idiosyncrasies add to the book’s charm. As the story progresses, it becomes clear how these people link to Gwen and other characters in the book. This added an extra layer of satisfaction every time I recognised a character from the short interludes.
Overall, Preloved is a heartwarming and humorous novel with great characters that I would recommend to anyone. I eagerly await Lauren Bravo’s future releases.
My rating: 4.5/5
Many thanks to the Books and the City team for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.