Simon Van Booy's Sipsworth is a delightfully funny, poignant, surprising novel about an octogenarian widow who has all but given up when she finds an unusual reason to reinvest in life. The story takes place over two weeks, in private spaces, and features events that on the surface appear small in scale, but have far-ranging consequences and meaning for its human and nonhuman protagonists, with whom readers cannot help but fall in love.

Helen Cartwright had lived abroad for six decades when she returned to the English village in which she was born and raised. Her beloved husband and cherished son have both died, and she now lives alone, sad, reclusive, in a pensioner's cottage. Then one morning, Helen brings in a neighbor's rubbish, to go through it on her own time; something reminded her of her son. She has inadvertently also brought in a tenant: a mouse. On impulse, she begins to feed it, to keep it safe, and they learn to trust one another. Her choice to care for something beyond herself will lead her to leave the house, to interact with people (librarian, hardware storekeeper), and to the terrible realization that if she dies now, the mouse she calls Sipsworth will starve in the enclosure she has designed. "For the first time in many years, against her better judgment," Helen is "not dying."

Van Booy (Father's Day; The Sadness of Beautiful Things) tells Helen's story in unadorned prose that however frequently offers lovely images and metaphor. Sweet but not saccharine, tender, loving, and funny, this story of unlikely friendship and late-life new beginnings will charm any reader who has ever loved or lost. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

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