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The A-Z Of You And Me – James Hannah Review

The A-Z Of You And Me – James Hannah Review

the-a-to-z-of-you-and-meReleased: March 2015

James Hannah’s The A-Z of You and Me isn’t exactly a story about life, but rather a tale about the mistakes and blunders people make as they stumble through life.

The novel is told through the sad eyes of Ivo, the book’s protagonist, who is living out the remainder of his days in a hospice. Ivo’s thoughts are filled with memories of his past, some pleasant and amusing, though the majority are filled with a pain and sorrow that Ivo would rather take to the grave than face up to.

To help fill his days and occupy his mind, Ivo’s nurse sets him an A-Z task, which sees him pick a body part for each letter of the alphabet and then recall a story from his past that correlates to that specific body part. It starts with Adam’s Apple – where a young Ivo publicly points out the giant lump in the Reverend’s throat – and moves through the alphabet as Ivo comes closer to his inevitable end.

You know from the very beginning that there isn’t going to be a happy ending to this book, but that doesn’t stop it from being an absorbing read thanks to Hannah’s dark humour and refreshingly true-to-life pathos. As you move through the story, it’s almost as if you’re racing against the clock ticking down to the end of Ivo’s life. There’s also a lot of significance to be found in Ivo’s reluctance to forgive the people who wronged him while he still can.

One of my favourite parts of the story is the brief and unlikely friendship Ivo strikes up with a young girl whose mum is dying in the hospice. This contrast between someone with their entire life ahead of them and someone nearing the end of theirs is a heart-warming one; it shows how young people can bring out the best in those who are world-weary and broken.

Ivo’s story is like the stitching of a blanket as Hannah knits together the tiny pieces of his protagonist’s story to form the whole picture at the end. When you turn the final page you really feel like you’ve bored deep into Ivo’s soul and pulled out the best and worst of humanity. It makes for a harrowing but strangely rewarding read, one that should resonate with anyone who has loved ones in hospices or care homes.

The A-Z of You and Me is a book about regret, acceptance and, most importantly, forgiveness. It might feature death but the spirit of the book is very much rooted in life and the choices we make that affect it.


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