This is Frances Garrood's third novel, and since I liked the first two very much, I was really looking forward to this one and could hardly wait finishing the book I had been reading when "Basic Theology" became available from the Kindle store.
(If you want to read my reviews on "Dead Ernest" and "The Birds, The Bees and Other Secrets", you can do that here and here.)
Last night, I finished reading "Basic Theology" - and would have liked for the story to go on, to know more about the three main characters. Admittedly, it took me a while to warm up to them: Alice, whose final decision I found hard to understand (and, had it been me, would have probably not taken); Gabs, who was (for me) the most "approachable" of the group and for whom I wished things with the man she loved had turned out differently (by the way - I always thought Gabriel was a male name, and Gabrielle the female equivalent?), and Mavis, who should have done long ago what she did in the end.
The small group of women would, under normal circumstances, most likely never have met at all, and if they had, not become friends; but circumstances for all of them are not what you'd call "normal", and so they find themselves part of a kind of self-help group set up by the Catholic church. When the official meetings stop, they decide to keep those meetings going, and with the official part missing, they open up to each other more and more, and become friends.
Their friendship gets increasingly important to them over the course of the year during which we accomanpy them; their lives take turns that are maybe not quite so unexpected but still need a lot of courage and strength to deal with.
I very much like the way Frances has neatly divided the book into its chapters; each of the three women has chapters dedicated mostly to them, plus there are the meetings every two months as a reference point to mark their year.
Also, just like in her previous books, the characters and the settings are well described so that it is easy to picture everything and everyone, from Mavis' employer and his "little grey wife" to Gabs' customers and Alice's teenage son.
Something I can not remember having noticed in "Dead Ernest" or "The Birds..." were a few typesetting errors and two minor things that an editor should have noticed:
The eyes of Mavis' mother are first described as blue, and a few pages further on they are grey; and the wife of one character is called Angela throughout the book, but at one point she suddenly turns into Janet (in case you want to have that corrected, Frances: it is when they all have the memorable picnic in the park). That Gabs, who is described as tidy, throws one of her wigs (a probably quite valuable part of her working equipment) into a corner of the living room upon coming home from work seems a bit odd, but don't we all do odd things every now and then?
"Basic Theology" was a good read. To learn that and how people who have big stuff to deal with in their lives (and most of it self-made) get through, by their own strength as much as with a little help from their friends, makes for an interesting story well told, with just the right amount of the humour we know to be Frances' own thrown in, without losing its seriousness when required.
And I very much hope there will be more to read from Frances soon!
(In case you don't know her blog yet, it is here.)