Book Title: We Are All Made of Stars
Author: Rowan Coleman
Genre/Themes: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Hospice, Palliative Care, PTSD, Grief, Loss, Love
Blurb from Goodreads
What if you had just one chance, one letter you could leave behind for the person you love? What would you write?
Stella Carey has good reason to only work nights at the hospice where she is a nurse. Married to a war veteran who has returned from Afghanistan brutally injured, Stella leaves the house each night as Vincent locks himself away, unable to sleep due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
During her nights at the hospice, Stella writes letters for her patients, detailing their final wishes, thoughts and feelings – from how to use a washing machine, to advice on how to be a good parent – and posts them after their death.
That is until Stella writes one letter that she feels compelled to deliver in time, to give her patient one final chance of redemption…
…what people say has a thousand times more meaning when it’s written down. On the page, the words become immortal, beautiful, personal, heartfelt, special. They are words that will always be there, to be read again and again, and again.
A letter is a memory that will never be lost, will never fade, or be forgotten.
‘We Are All Made of Stars’ follows the stories of a group of people whose lives revolve in and around a hospice and respite centre in London.
We meet Stella, a night nurse in the hospice with a troubled marriage. To avoid the problems at home Stella has committed to taking the long and lonely night shifts at the hospice. There she transcribes letters for the dying to give to the ones they love after they are deceased.
Stella’s husband is Vincent; a soldier returned home injured from war who is struggling with survivor’s guilt.
Then there’s Hope, a 21 year old girl with cystic fibrosis who is in the hospice for respite after battling yet another life threatening infection. Hope is afraid of dying young and not leaving her mark on the world and therefore has a very gloomy outlook on life.
We also meet Hope’s best friend Ben who tries his best to encourage Hope to live her life and have fun; he is unwavering in his friendship.
Issy is a fourteen year old girl with terminal cancer who is spending her dying days in the hospice centre. Her mother Thea rarely leaves her side. Issy spends her days worrying about her mum, and Thea spends her days worrying about Issy.
And lastly we meet Hugh, his cat Jake, and his new next door neighbours, Sarah and her son who try to warm his cold-hearted indifference towards life.
Over the course of seven nights we see how these lives are all interconnected and how the saddest and most difficult moments in life can bring people together.
Do you ever begin to feel that you have read too many books by the same author?
I’m beginning to feel that way about Rowan Coleman I fear. There was nothing wrong with this book. It was a perfectly lovely read. It was heartfelt, it was touching, I cried at the sad moments and there were plenty of sad moments….but I fear that I have read all this before.
It really reminded me of a previous Rowan Coleman novel I read, The Memory Book….that time the emotive subject was Alzheimer’s disease whereas this time it is palliative care….
This book was interspersed with handwritten letters that were supposedly transcribed by Stella the nurse for patients of the hospice who were too weak or frail to write themselves. These letters for their families and friends ranged from funny to heart breaking and I will admit that I laughed and cried at all the opportune moments….
However in The Memory Book Rowan Coleman used a similar plot-device; that time between chapters there were handwritten journal entries of memories to help the Alzheimer’s patient remember her life…..
So I do feel that even though this was all nicely written and very emotive …. I’ve just seen it all before so it felt old….
Also while being a lovely story there was nothing fresh about it. The plot moved along nicely but it was all very predictable, there were no great twists or surprises.
However, there were some lovely moments between Hope and Ben especially. They had a lovely relationship with plenty of banter and bittersweet moments, and they were my favourite characters in the book.
‘And I hate it when you do this’ I say.
‘Trying to bring me out of myself…I don’t want to come out of myself. I like it in here’
‘Yes’ he says ‘but you are completely failing to notice the obvious…when you are stuck inside your own head, I miss you.’
And just like that he’s won.
Issy, the fourteen year old girl was also a really beautifully written character. Her storyline was probably the most heart wrenching. And her character gave me my favourite quote from the book…she loved reading as much as I do…
“Books are a bit like time travel, aren’t they? They can pick you up out of your life and put you in someone else’s. It’s just a shame that at some point you always have to come back.”
Unfortunately I was a little disappointed with the book overall. The story didn’t feel fresh and instead relied too much on tired tropes and stereotypical plot devices.
A dispiriting read from an author I typically enjoy.