The Lifeline by Tom Ellen

I really enjoyed this author’s previous book, so was keen to give The Lifeline at try, and I was not disappointed. Despite dealing with some fairly serious issues, this was ultimately a hopeful and heartwarming read. Annie is a former music journalist who is having trouble moving on after the death of her father. Will was lead singer in an up-and-coming indie band, but now works in a failing electronics store and volunteers for a crisis helpline in his spare time. The story is told from Annie and Will’s perspectives, both in the present and five years before. A large part of the narrative takes the form of phone conversations which come across as very natural.

Five years ago, Annie went to Paris to interview Will and they went on to spend a wonderful day together. She thought they had a real connection, but when he did not turn up to meet her after the gig she assumed the worst. Five years later in London, she is supposed to be contacting the band to write an article, but cannot track them down. Purely by chance she phones the helpline, Green Shoots, and speaks to Will, but neither of them know who the other is as they are using the names Jack and Pia. They make a connection and start to look forward to their weekly conversations. We have to wait until quite far into the story to find out what happened on that fateful night in Paris, but this is good as we have come to care about Annie and Will by then.

The Lifeline is much more than a romance novel, though there is a romantic element to the story. It is really about all forms of love, and the importance of having someone to listen and talk to. The writer does not shy away from serious and distressing topics like loneliness, grief, depression and guilt but handles them with a sensitive touch. The importance of friends and family runs through the narrative, along with forgiveness. There is humour as well to stop it getting too dark, and I particularly enjoyed the pop culture references. This book has left a lasting impression on me – I won’t forget it in a hurry and look forward to reading the next book by this talented writer. Thanks to HQ and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.