15 Feb A Sky Full of Stars by Dani Atkins
A heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting love story
Nothing says heartbreak like the tragic, untimely death of a loved one. It can be tricky to pull off such a story without upsetting or depressing the reader, but it can be done – witness JoJo Moyes, David Nicholls and, going further back, Erich Segal with Love Story.
Dani Atkins’ story begins with the death of astronomer Lisa Stevens in a train crash while on her way to a conference in London. Her husband Alex and six-year-old son Connor are left devastated by her death – she’d taught them to look at the stars, but now their days and night are black with grief. Alex’s brother Todd and his wife Dee do their best to console them, but in those early days of loss, nothing helps.
Lisa has gone – but she has left behind a legacy in the shape of her unselfish donation of organs to four very different people.
Schoolteacher Molly gets a new lease of life with her heart; architect Mac can go back to work now he can see again through Lisa’s corneas; pensioner Barbara is able to say goodbye to the constraints of kidney dialysis and teenager Jamie, recipient of Lisa’s lungs, relishes every easy breath he can now take.
Each gets in touch with Alex to say thank you – and despite advice to the contrary from the organ donation team, he corresponds with all of them, and brings them together when he invites them to share a celebration of Lisa’s birthday.
From then on, the four lucky recipients of Lisa’s largesse, along with Alex and Connor, are linked in a bond so powerful and strong that it seems to Alex that they must have been brought together for a reason. And as he finds himself more and more drawn to Molly, he wonders if perhaps, Lisa’s heart still beats for him.
While little Connor refuses to believe that his mummy is never coming back, Alex can’t help wondering if she has …
What a powerful love story! I was gripped from the very first page, by the strong, emotional plot and by the empathetic, convincing characters.
We may meet Lisa only fleetingly, but seeing her through Alex and Connor’s eyes throughout the story brings her back to life in a way Alex can only dream of. She’s a lovely person, warm, kind and caring – just like Molly, who carries her heart within her, but who has her own dreams and longings.
The story is told from the alternating points of view of Alex and Molly and their narratives merge seamlessly together to explore the issues of love and loss that dominate this book. Both are conflicted by their feelings, unsure what is happening and how to resolve them, as Todd, Dee and Molly’s friend Kyra watch on, concerned that fresh tragedy awaits them.
Of equal, breathtaking interest are the relationships between Mac, Molly, Barbara and Jamie, as they meet up sometimes separately, sometimes together. Is it a random coincidence that all their lives were save by Lisa? And do they owe her some sort of debt?
It says a lot for Dani Atkin’s sensitivity and skill that the supernatural theme of this story is never laboured or awkward. We aren’t asked to believe or disbelieve – just presented with the choices as the story flows on in a series of emotional, sometimes sad, sometimes happy scenes to a strong, suspenseful and powerful ending.
This is a box of tissues read, but ultimately it’s uplifting, hopeful and even joyous in its exploration of the power of love.
I loved it.
A Sky Full of Stars by Dani Atkins is published by Head of Zeus in HB, RRP £18.99
About the Author