Monday, December 7, 2020

The Switch by Beth O'Leary

On my short list of good things about 2020 (it's a very short list), I'd have to say audiobooks would rank pretty high.  Audiobooks are kind of a recent thing for me.  I always thought they felt a little bit "cheaty" as reading goes, plus, I just don't seem to absorb things as well when I listen to them as when I read them, so I always figured a good story would be lost on me if I listened to it.  While they'll never replace my love of the written word, I've really appreciated listening to stories this year.  When you're living alone through a pandemic, it's kind of nice to hear another voice.  It's even nicer when the other voice is reading you an absorbing story.  

I snagged a "listen now" copy of The Switch by Beth O'Leary from NetGalley.  I tend to try to make my audio listening a little lighter weight than my reading because I truly do have the attention span of a flea when listening, particularly when multitasking, which audiobooks were pretty much made for multitasking, no?  Anyhow, The Switch totally fit the bill for me.

Leena Cotton is at a loss when she has a breakdown at a work meeting and is forced to take a 2 month sabbatical.  (Seriously, though, why can't this happen to me?)  Having recently lost her sister to cancer and become alienated from her mother in the process, she can't fathom what she will do with two months where she can't lose herself in work.  Meanwhile, Leena's grandmother, Eileen, has been left by her philandering husband at the age of 79.  She'd love to get back out there and meet a new man, but the dating pool in her small Yorkshire village is, well, puddle-sized.  

When Leena discovers her grandmother's list of eligible bachelors in the village, all of whom have been found wanting, she decides her grandmother should try online dating.  Unfortunately, the online dating landscape has little to offer.  That is, unless Eileen goes to London.  An idea is born, and suddenly Leena and Eileen are swapping lives.  Leena will take over her grandmother's spot on the neighborhood watch committee and handle all of her projects, like planning the May Day festival, while Eileen will try out London life, moving into Leena's flat with Leena's roommates Fitz and Martha.

In alternating point of views, narrated perfectly by Daisy Edgar-Jones and Allison Steadman, the two women navigate the unknown, carving out places for themselves in their new surroundings. Each finds her new life challenging but rewarding, and each brings a little of herself to her new situation and leaves the lives of those around her better for it.  Leena finds herself falling for a handsome country schoolteacher while Eileen has a fling with a West End theater actor only to find that maybe she's looking for love in the wrong place after all.  

The book is filled with quirky, lovable, believable supporting characters, and the two Cotton women are admirable main characters.  While definitely part of the romance genre, The Switch goes deeper to explore the need for genuine human connection among friends and even among strangers while also exploring themes of healing after loss.  The Switch is a a lighthearted but by no means fluffy feel-good novel.  

Highly recommended, especially on audio!