Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Woman meets dog…
The world has changed around Missy Carmichael. At seventy-nine, she’s estranged from her daughter, her son and only grandson live across the world in Australia, and her great love is gone. Missy spends her days with a sip of sherry, scrubbing the kitchen in her big empty house and reliving her past–though it’s her mistakes, and secrets, that she allows to shine brightest. The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give. Filled with wry laughter and deep insights into the stories we tell ourselves, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael shows us it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. It’s never too late to love.
At seventy-nine years old, Missy Carmichael has a load of regrets that weigh on her daily. She spends her days puttering around her big old house, cleaning that which is already sparkling, lamenting the mistakes of her life, and, quite frankly, wondering how much longer she will have to endure the loneliness.
And then, one day, Missy goes to see a load of fish get shocked in pond.
Of all the things in the world that could have happened the day Missy Carmichael went to see the shocking of the fish she never would have expected what did happen. One, the fish really did get shocked and two, Missy passed out. Though neither of those events were particularly nice or enjoyable, they did lead to some interesting new introductions, most notably the effervescent Sylvie and the utterly brash, Angela and her young son, Otis. Though Missy wasn’t particularly looking for any new friends, or friends at all, both Sylvie and Angela work their way into her life and as she eventually finds, it is for the better.
For much of her life, Missy Carmichael has felt utterly alone. Even in the days of her grand marriage and motherhood, Missy has always felt separate from those around her. She is utterly convinced she spent her entire life loving her husband far more than he loved her, and her children were responsibilities she now wishes she had viewed as joys rather than simply responsibilities. If her current relationship with her children is any indication, they felt the separateness too. Sylvie and Angela have no idea of Missy’s past and while they would like to know more about her, they both understand that she is going to be a tough nut to crack and it will take patience and time to gain her trust and friendship. Thankfully, both women are more than willing to wait and put forth the effort.
In the days and weeks that follow, a strange sort of feeling comes over Missy. She still spends far too much time in the past, but in light of her new friendships, she is beginning to see her past in a somewhat less harsh light. Not only are Angela, Otis, and Sylvie constants in her life, but so is a most unlikely creature, Bob the dog. While Missy has never been an animal lover per say, she isn’t actually opposed to them either and since taking Bob in is meant to be temporary, Missy agrees to the arrangement. Just like her friendships with Angela, Otis, and Sylvie, Missy takes her time with Bob. Adjusting to life with a dog isn’t easy for Missy, but she finds, once the training wheels come off that she rather likes the beast and she (yes, Bob is a girl!) opens up a whole new world of friendships in the form of the dog park people.
With each new day and each new experience, Missy begins to see life differently, and she begins to reassess her past and forgive herself for some of her many perceived flaws and failures. As her walk through the past coincides with her walk in the present, Missy learns to appreciate the people in her life and opens herself up to new experiences. She becomes a true friend in every sense of the word and rather enjoys the freedom from the loneliness that had been her constant companion for so many decades. For the better part of year, Missy embraces life as she never has before and just as she’s getting truly comfortable with her new reality, Life rears its ugly head and pulls the rug right out from under Missy. What she finds in the wake of tragedy is that friendship is a two-way street and what she has experienced over the last year has earned her the friendship, kindness, and caring of a large number of people, friends who are more than willing to come to her aid.
The Bottom Line: What a truly tremendous read this was for me! Based on the synopsis, I thought this book was going to be far lighter than it is, but I found that I appreciated the heaviness of the read and the themes it explored. Missy Carmichael is a survivor and for much of her life, that is all she has been. It isn’t until her husband is lost to her and her children are virtual strangers that Missy really begins to live. Through a series of strange events and thanks to the persistence of two wonderfully different women, one small boy, and dog, Missy learns to trust, to open herself up, to participate in life, and to be present. As she is learning all these new and liberating lessons, Missy is also applying the lessons to her past and learning to forgive and to let go, to say the things she means and fully participate in the world around her. Through her strength and courage, Missy finds she is not only worth liking, but worth loving and caring for. She finds friendship for the first time in her life and when the rug is pulled out from beneath her, it is that friendship that sees her through the darkness. I so appreciated this book, the steps back into the past to help frame and better understand the present and the unwavering relationships that come to Missy so late in life. Missy Carmichael’s story is one that will resonate with readers as it is, ultimately a story of life, love, connection, and friendship. In all, an excellent read.