The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside introduces us to a very memorable character in Dawn. When we first meet her she is just about to be offered a space in a shelter for the homeless – St Jude’s. It’s no coincidence I’m sure that St Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. Dawn is such an interesting character and at first I was full of questions. What has happened to her daughter Rosie? Dawn seems to have a different story for every different person she meets. Why does she have an aversion to men with red hair? Just what has she been running from for the past twenty years? And could I actually believe anything she said? I really wanted to but I wasn’t sure she could be relied upon.
Jessica Ryn shines a light on so many different issues throughout this book. Mental health is a key theme and something which affects so many of the residents of St Jude’s. So many will have been considered lost causes either as individuals or as a group – ‘the homeless’ or ‘junkies’. Through finding out about the reasons why each resident ended up in St Jude’s, the author sheds light on the many, complicated reasons why people can find themselves homeless and shows that people from any walk of life can find themselves in this situation. She also shows clearly the challenges and stress caused by underfunding of this sector.
But Dawn does not think of her fellow residents as lost causes and neither does hostel manager Grace. I so enjoyed that we got to see each person in the book as an individual, that we got to find out about them. This created a real sense of empathy and I was certainly hoping for positive outcomes for them all, even when that seemed most unlikely. When it was finally revealed what had happened to Dawn, my heart broke for her. You could see why throughout her years she had wanted and needed to care for people, wherever she found them. There was an urge deep within her that compelled her to look out for others.
Without giving anything away, I will say that the ending of this book genuinely is one of the uplifting and hopeful conclusions to any book I’ve read this year. It is only when you get to the very, very end that you realise, with a lump in the throat, just how appropriate the title of the book is. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is a wonderful, heart-warming book. If you need your faith in humanity restored, I highly recommend you get a copy of this book because out there right now are lots of people like Dawn and Grace and they are a lifeline to so many.
My thanks to the publishers HQ Stories for my review copy of the book via Netgalley. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside was published yesterday in hardback and ebook formats. The audiobook is available from tomorrow and the paperback will follow next year. Please support an local bookshop if you are able to. Otherwise there are buying options for various retailers on the Harper Collins website here: The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside
From the back of the book
She’s not lost. She’s just waiting to be found…
Dawn Elisabeth Brightside has been running from her past for twenty-two years and two months, precisely.
So when she is offered a bed in St Jude’s Hostel for the Homeless, it means so much more than just a roof over her head.
But with St Jude’s threatened with closure, Dawn worries that everything is about to crumble around her all over again.
Perhaps, with a little help from her new friends, she can find a way to save this light in the darkness?
And maybe, just maybe, Dawn will finally have a place to call home….
The utterly charming feel-good debut novel of 2020 to curl up with.
About the author
Jessica Ryn is a former midwife and homeless resettlement worker. She has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at CCCU, and her stories have been shortlisted for the Kimberly Chambers’ Kickstarter Award, Wordsmag and the Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing. When she’s not scribbling away, Jessica can be found meandering through the woods, reading stories that pull on the feel-strings and eating yoghurt-covered skittles. Jessica lives in Dover with her husband, two children and their high-spirited springer spaniel. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is her debut novel.