Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

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When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbors and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

Source: NetGalley and Quercus Rating: 4½/5 stars

Since the death of beloved sister, Leena Cotton hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders.  To avoid dealing with the loss of her sister and her anger towards her mother, Leena has thrown herself into work.  But grief is a sneaky little monkey and at the moment Leena least expects it, her grief overwhelms her and causes her to blow a huge presentation at work.  While Leena is certain she is going to be sacked, her boss is sympathetic and allows Leena a two-month sabbatical.

What does a workaholic avoiding real issues of grief do for two months?  Of course, she switches homes with her 79-year-old grandmother.

For two months, Leena will live in her grandmother’s sleepy little country village and her grandmother, a sprightly and delightful Eileen will move into Leena’s London flat with her roommates.  For Eileen, the move to London is an adventure of a lifetime, a chance to do all the wild and crazy things she gave up when she married her worthless husband so many years ago.  For Leena, the time away is meant to help her heal, to let go of her anger, and to finally truly grieve the loss of her sister.  Oh, and she also has to maintain her grandmother’s active and full schedule as a member of the community. 

Leena’s first days and weeks in her grandmother’s home aren’t exactly easy.  She’s used to a frenetic pace, but life in the country is far from frenetic.  In fact, life in the country often starts a bit later in the day than in the city and generally a load of gossip and planning.  Oh yes, at the top of Leena’s to-do list is organizing the annual May Day celebration with a group of senior citizens who are, in turns, wonderful, cranky, mean, happily clueless, and generally hard of hearing. 

Meanwhile, back in London, Eileen is settling in nicely to her new home and thoroughly enjoying her time with her significantly younger flatmates.  Eileen spends her days wandering the city and her nights engaging in a youthful fling with a handsome gentleman and helping her young flatmates navigate their lives.  Though she misses her home and her friends, Eileen’s time in the city is proving to be exactly what she needed and what she was missing in her life.  What’s more, for the first time in many, many years Eileen feels as if she is making a real difference in the lives of others.

Once the training wheels come off and Leena understands the lay of the land, she dives right into her obligations and forges ahead at top speed.  With her skill set and tenacity, Leena begins to pull together one of the most impressive celebrations the village has ever seen.  Additionally, through her committee work, Leena has really gotten to know the villagers and in her own way has discovered both big and little ways to help improve their individual lives and situations. 

The Bottom Line:  I quite enjoyed this new twist on an old trope.  I found both Leena and Eileen to be wonderfully endearing characters who were both looking to heal in their own way.  By switching places and lives, both Eileen and Leena enjoyed a new perspective on life, love, and learning.  Each woman had significant ups and downs during their respective adventures, but the highs and lows were the places they found the most important lessons.  I found this book to be both entertaining and refreshing with all the feels from two very different age perspectives.  In truth, I found the best part of this book to be the view from the seniors; all that life and experience mixed with some truly hilarious moments made this an excellent read for me.

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