British author Hazel Prior's (Ellie and the Harp Maker) second novel delivers a dose of the warm fuzzies in a story of aging without giving up, the meaning of family and the healing power of baby penguins.
Wealthy, irascible Scottish octogenarian Veronica McCreedy believes she has no family and prefers to live alone, calling other people "irksome." When an epiphany leads her to Patrick, the grown grandson she never knew she had, his aimless lifestyle fills her with disdain. Suffering through a bad breakup, Patrick finds his chilly grandmother equally disappointing. Turning aside from humans once more, Veronica sees a moving documentary about penguins and decides to bequeath her fortune to the delightful birds. She also decides to travel to Antarctica for a long visit with the scientists who study them, despite the scientists' fervent protests. One voyage south and a purposely missed return trip later, Veronica's adventures on the ice, including bonding with a young woman scientist and raising a penguin chick, begin to thaw her heart. Meanwhile, Patrick gets a package containing Veronica's teen journals from 1940 and learns the devastating truth behind her frosty persona.
Reminiscent of A Man Called Ove mixed with Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, this life-affirming dramedy scores big on the cuteness index. However, Prior also delves into trauma and healing in a serious and sensitive manner. Readers willing to overlook the occasional plot stretch will find a heartwarming story of family and redemption. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads