I cannot tell a lie: when I opened the package containing my advance proof copy of Sam Baker’s To My Best Friends my heart sank a little. It was rather pink.
And pink covers, even the palest of blush pink covers, do tend to promise a rather lightweight paint-by-numbers A-Z plot. Plus, in the interests of full disclosure, Sam Baker is editor in chief of Red magazine. A magazine in which I have been featured, to which I contributed one of my favourite-est-ever features, and upon whose online expert panel I reside.
It really wouldn’t be ideal, I thought, if it blew. (I’m not very good at dissembling.) So I kept my fingers crossed as I climbed onto the window seat in my bedroom, checked my biscuit supplies, pulled a rug over my knees, inserted Posetta Baddog under said rug, cracked open the spine and got down to business.
Dear readers, avert your eyes from the pastel, for what resides inside these covers is so, so much more than a happy summer read-by-the-pool paperback. It’s a cracking read with a complex plot. One which kept me up until 4am in the morning, eyes running with tiredness, as I kept turning the pages, faster and faster, such was my need to find out what happened.
To My Best Friends has a simple yet clever premise for a novel: it charts the aftermath of the seemingly bonkers epistolary instructions left by a woman to her closest friends after her tragically early death from cancer. We watch as the women battle with their collective sense of duty and the individual weight of other people’s expectations.
The characters aren’t the usual one dimensional stereotypes that books with pink covers seem to trade in so often. This perfectly realised group of likeable women, and the men in their lives, are the kind of people who populate my life. Recognisable human beings, with convincing worries, jobs & families, whom you’d quite like to meet for a coffee one day.
I warn you: This is a whole box of Kleenex book. I did proper sobbing, breath-catching, snot-running sobbing but it was cathartic crying because this is a novel that struck so many chords with me that I felt like a bloody piano by the end.
Baker keeps the momentum going until the very last page. There’s none of that unconvincing tying up of loose ends that makes the reader shriek with fury and curse the writer’s editor. It reaches a natural, charming conclusion, full of hope and promise that leaves you sniffing and smiling.
To My Best Friends by Sam Baker. Available on Amazon £5.19