When I first heard about this book a couple of months ago I knew it was one I had to read. It is very loosely based on the film It’s A Wonderful Life which just happens to be my favourite film ever. If you haven’t seen the film, it won’t affect your enjoyment of this book but go and watch it immediately! In a similar way to the film, the majority of this book is telling of the life of the main character, in this case Belle. Belle was fostered as a child by the wonderfully compassionate Tess who she stayed with throughout her childhood years and who she thinks of as her mother. Jim was also fostered by Tess for a while and the two formed a strong bond. When he goes back to his own family, they lose touch but we meet them at the beginning of this book shortly after they have been reunited. If like me, you can’t watch all these proposals you see on youtube without tearing up, you will be in trouble right from the beginning of this book! It’s not a spoiler to say they get married and also decide to foster, knowing what a difference it made in their own lives. But following a car crash, Belle feels she is losing everything she holds dear and we find her, like George Bailey in the film, standing on a bridge, wishing she’d never been born and contemplating suicide. Enter her guardian angel who shows her what life would have been like if she hadn’t existed.
This was such an emotional book and it really moved me at several points throughout the story. Carmel Harrington has created such wonderful characters in Belle and Jim Looney. The love between them was just so strong you could almost feel it and the way they shared their love to help their foster children was just amazing. They make such a difference to the lives of the children in their care, something we see later when Belle gets her wish never to have been born. Tess was also a lovely character, the kind of foster parent every child in need deserves. And my heart went out to the young Belle so bewildered by the situation she was in. My heart also broke a little for her at several points of the story as we hear of her relationship with her birth mother and suffers loss in her own life. Ultimately though, this isn’t a sad book. It’s beautifully uplifting and if you know the film, you will have an idea of what kind of heartwarming ending to expect.
Just like the film, one of the main messages of the story is that you never know just how many lives you touch and what effect you have on people. This quotation is very wise and really sums it up: “You have to realise that everything you do creates ripples throughout your life. In ways that you cannot comprehend. Every single life has value…. Yours too. And you have the potential to impact others in such a positive and meaningful way”.
I’m not sure I can find the words to describe how much I loved this book. It made me smile lots and it made me cry quite a few times and that’s not something that a book does very often. It is a perfect Christmas book and I think I will have a new tradition to add to my annual viewing of It’s A Wonderful Life: this book will become an annual Christmas read.
Huge thanks to publishers Harper Impulse for providing a review copy of this book via Netgalley. It was published as an ebook on 15th October and is out in paperback today. You can order a copy here: Every Time A Bell Rings
Every Time a Bell Rings
Belle has taken all the Christmas decorations down. This year they won’t be celebrating. As foster parents, Belle and Jim have given many children the chance of a happier start in life. They’ve loved them as if they were their own. They shouldn’t have favourites but little Lauren has touched their hearts. And now her mother is well enough to take her back and Belle can’t bear the loss. Hence, Christmas is cancelled. So when Jim crashes his car one icy December night, after an argument about Lauren, Belle can only blame herself. Everything she loves is lost. And Belle finds herself standing on The Ha’Penny Bridge wishing she had never been born.But what happens to a Christmas wish when an angel is listening… Will Belle realise, before it’s too late, that her life is the most wonderful life of all? Inspired by the timeless tale of beloved Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, Carmel Harrington’s next book tells the story of Belle, a young woman and foster carer from Dublin who faces the hardest decision of her life this Christmas on The Ha’Penny Bridge.