INSTRUCTIONS FOR A SECOND HAND HEART BY TAMSYN MURRAY. REVIEW BY PHEEBS.

This book took a tragic turn early on, and didn’t shy away from grief and sorrow throughout. But I was hooked. The ending is incredibly gentle and well-handled, and there is always a sense of optimism, kindness and strength in the characters. Despite all that they go through, the two main characters of Jonny and Niamh have warm personalities that never cease to shine through and engage the reader.

Both face initial hardships: Jonny is sentenced by his heart condition to a short life shackled to a hospital bed. Niamh lives in the shadow of her perfect brother.

But soon Jonny’s world is looking up when he gets a shot at a normal life… and Niamh’s family is devastated by a tragedy.

As Niamh spirals, in denial of her emotional pain, desperately needs someone other than her existing friends to help her. Jonny soon finds that normality, while great, can’t compensate for the nagging desire to know who gave him a chance to live outside of a hospital and needs to know more about what happened the day his life changed.

Inevitably, their paths cross.

I liked how their respective fixations drove them together at first without much enthusiasm, but in getting to know each other, their interests change. The description of how their original concerns gradually drop away as the friendship grows between them appealed to me as a wonderful tribute to the power of courage and love.

All in all, a bittersweet book centred on the role that trust, friendship and love play in the part of recovery from broken and mended hearts; I thoroughly enjoyed it from cover to cover. The relationship between Jonny and Niamh feels like a roller coaster ride, and with so many emotional swings, it echoes reality perfectly: a beautiful, tear-jerking, heart-wrenching novel.

Tamsyn's Tanglewood Animal Park event is at the Crown & Cushion from 12pm on Sunday 30 April.