A poignant, uplifting, brilliantly insightful story of one woman's end-of-life reckoning with her past, her lost daughter and herself, for readers of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Still Alice and Elizabeth Is Missing.
When her husband left her with a baby, a toddler and a fledgling business, Francesca managed--she wasn't always gentle or patient, but the business thrived and Chris and Angelina had food to eat. At nearly 70, she feels she's earned a peaceful retirement. But when a massive stroke leaves her voiceless, partially paralyzed and wholly reliant on the staff of an extended care facility, it seems her freedom is lost.
However, Francesca is still clear-headed and sharp, and she knows one thing: she wants to live. She savours her view of a majestic chestnut tree through the hospital window, and speaks in her mind to her beloved friend Anna, dead for two years. The daily tasks and dramas of the rotating crew of care aides tether her to the world: Young Lily, eager to fall in love and regularly falling apart when things don't work out; Michiko, with her spiky hair and tattoos and wicked sense of humour; Molly, endlessly kind and skilled in her work; Blaire, cold and enigmatic.
Amidst the indignities of bed baths and a feeding tube, Francesca is surprised to experience flashes of hilarity and joy, even the blossoming of a new friendship with a fellow patient. But as she reflects to Anna on her dutiful son and her troubled and absent daughter, regrets and painful realizations rise to the surface. For the first time, there is nowhere for Francesca to hide from her own choices, and she must reckon with her past before it's too late. A Funny Kind of Paradise is a warm and insightful novel about one woman's opportunity for reinvention--for unconditional love, acceptance and closure--in the unlikeliest of places.
JO OWENS lives in Victoria and has worked as a health care aide for twenty years. A Funny Kind of Paradise is her first novel.
“[An] affecting debut . . . Owens’s believable, touching portrait of Frannie and the loving care of her aides is loaded with moments of beauty amid the swirl of regret and nostalgia. . . . These powerful final reflections of an irascible, regretful patient illustrate the unremarkable yet profound experience of nearing death.” —Publishers Weekly
“Owens, a care aide for more than 20 years, captures the skill and tenderness of caring for someone at the end of life in direct and unvarnished prose. . . . Each [care aide] . . . is richly drawn and complex . . . [and the novel] serves to illuminate a vital profession that has been rarely documented in fiction.” —Vancouver Sun
"Like pulling rabbits from a hat, Jo Owens manages the magic of reaching into the most abject places of the human heart—and other parts of the anatomy—and finding joy, humour and redemption. She gifts the reader a story told with elegant wit and irreverent humour, and characters brought to life with love, often of the tough variety . . . and there is nothing more tender. I love this book." —Ann-Marie MacDonald
“Jo Owens’ achievement is astonishing. She has created a heroine whose zest for life is as unstoppable as her curiosity about the caregivers and patients in her long-term facility, and whose capacity for change is sometimes painful and frequently funny. What a delight to be privy to Francesca’s blunt, ribald, exasperated and tender reactions to a life she never planned.” —Katherine Ashenburg, author of Sofie & Cecilia and Her Turn
“A Funny Kind of Paradise is a gorgeous and original novel that explores a reality too often looked away from. A deeply compassionate examination of human life and its immeasurable value.” —Kevin Patterson, author of News From the Red Desert