Wednesday, June 17, 2020

How the Penguins Saved Veronica, by Hazel Prior

Berkley, ISBN 9781984803818, June 2020

Veronica McReedy is rich, comfortable, and old. She has no family, having divorced her husband many years ago, and her parents having died when she was a young teenager, during World War II. Well, she did have a baby, a very long time ago, but he was adopted, and she never saw him again. Eventually, she learned, from one of his adopted cousins, that he had died in a mountain climbing accident, in his forties. He had no children.

Except--she has found the box in which she stored some keepsakes, a locket with several strands of hair, and her diary notebooks, which she last wrote in during the war.  And now she wonders, is she really sure? Would an adopted cousin really know, for sure, if her son had any offspring?

Patrick Fuller has just been dumped by his girlfriend, who is now living with a builder, and consequently has also lost his apartment, which her income had been essential for. He's working one day a week at Gav's bicycle shop, and his only other income is the dole. He's in a smaller, crappier apartment that Gav found him, not cooking healthy anymore like he did with Lynette, and even smoking marijuana again.
Veronica asks her housekeeper, Eileen, to find her a reliable agency, and sets them to work looking for any surviving relatives. 

In the meantime, though, Veronica has also become interested in penguins. Adélie penguins, to be precise. She discovered them in a nature program, and is determined to help the endangered penguins survive--at least, if she can have confidence in the group of scientists working on that. To that end, she has Eileen email the chief scientist at the research station, and inform him that she intends to pay a visit, possibly for several months, with an eye to possibly making a will benefiting the penguin research program.

Dietrich (the head scientist) and his two colleagues do their best to explain that this is impossible, that they have no accommodations for a guest, that conditions are basic at best, etc. After some back and forth, the result is that Veronica will stay there for three weeks, the length of time between arrivals of the supply ship. And she will pay generously for her accommodations, at a rate suitable for decent accommodations in London.

While this is in progress, the agency finds Patrick Fuller, her grandson, and Veronica arranges to meet him. Patrick envisions the possibility of a sweet, charming, old granny with whom he might have the love and connection he hasn't had since his mother died when he was six. Veronica is envisioning an organized, capable, possibly worthy heir to the money that is, at this point, all she has.

Veronica and Patrick are both disappointed.

But Veronica has met Patrick when he's at a low point, deep in depression and with no idea what he even wants in life. And Patrick has met Veronica when she, too, is at a low point, with only the awareness that she has nothing in her life that she really cares about. Now Veronica is is heading off to Locket Island, South Shetlands, Antarctica, and, due to communication between Eileen and Dietrich, behind Veronica's back, Patrick is alerted to be at the airport to see her off. He takes the chance, feeling bad about his first interaction with his new-found grandmother.

And this gets both of them thinking, along new and more productive lines.

Meanwhile, I've said nothing about the Locket Island, the penguins, or the scientists. Suffice it to say, this book is all about living beings intereacting with each other, and learning from each other.

And healing, and growing.

It's a wonderfully warm,enjoyable book. Recommended.

I received an electronic galley of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, and reviewing it voluntarily.

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