I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
Joe Faber and the Optimists by Gill Oliver
Genre: Family, Humor
Joe Faber’s a funny guy, good with his hands, and great with words – until the stroke which leaves him severely disabled. But this is more than his story. There’s Fran, Joe’s wife, who draws up her manifesto and decides to act like an optimist; she hasn’t planned to be a carer. Their talented daughter Jess, who turns her trouble into music. While Jess’s fiancé Matt, the management trainer, innocent, positive and daft, will do his best to keep them all on target.
Art School training made Joe a close observer of the world, but once he leaves the hospital, how does the world see him? And care is erratic. So will Fran have to give up the job she loves? Can Matt’s energetic but insensitive sister be trusted to organise the wedding? There’s heartbreak and absurdity along the way, but humour is the family’s greatest asset in the drive to get Joe back on his own two feet. You’ll hear some wonderful fiddle music and visit some magical Shetland places. Besides being fiercely honest about a tough subject, which the author has seen at first hand, Gill Oliver’s second novel is marked by a zest for life and will surprise you right to the end.
I grew up in Liverpool and yes, at heart I’m the stereotype – a warm-blooded enthusiast who likes nothing better than swinging between a good laugh and a good cry, and to whom silence is alien. People are endlessly interesting, and there’s so much about the world that I just need you to know! I studied languages as a route to reading even more books (including some really wacky stuff) and found a career in education. Joe Faber and the Optimists is my second novel, prompted by the experience of my husband’s stroke, and serious comedy is the furrow I’m still ploughing now. I’m a keen singer, and my work in progress – Amateurs – is about what happens when a slightly precious young composer collides with an amateur choir.
When I learned that the book centered around a patient who had suffered a severe stroke, I felt like this would be a great inspirational story of someone who heroically comes back. We all love a feel-good story that shows that anything can be accomplished with hard work and support. This book isn’t exactly that story.
Joe does suffer a severe stroke and almost dies. But, he does regain consciousness and learns that half of his body isn’t working. His personality is shown to the reader gradually as he speaks about what he is experiencing and how his family is dealing with the stroke. He has many moments when humor breaks through and helps him to cope. I love that his wife and daughter are open to him about his situation. Many families just walk on egg-shells and don’t really deal with what is right before their eyes.
Joe’s daughter Jess is so worried that her dad won’t be able to walk her down the aisle, now that she’s engaged. Her fiancé Matt is always around as they are trying to plan the wedding. Zanna is organizing the wedding, but is intense and pushy. The story now seems to focus on the tension between Zanna, Jess, and Matt as the wedding plans unfold.
I love seeing Joe’s progress, but would love to have the book focused on him and not so much of the day to day lives of his daughter and her fiancé. There is some cursing in the book and a little crude humor. The very end of the book is the most interesting part as many things are resolved in the various relationships. To find out about Joe’s level of recovery, will the wedding happen, and will the family settle into a acceptance of Joe’s disability, you’ll need to read this book.
@2021, copyright Lisa Ehrman