17 September 2020

Book of the month: 'Half A World Away' by Mike Gayle

Front cover of  'Half A World Away' by Mike Gayle on a tartan blanket

I'm going to kick start this by saying that this post is going to have a whole bunch of spoilers in, because I really want to talk about how this book SHATTERED my poor fragile little heart last month. I'm definitely a crier (books, films, those little facebook videos about dogs seeing their owners returning from active duty in the army, literally EVERYTHING can set me off), and I ignored all the warnings everyone made about how much this book could make me cry and then WEPT for the entire last quarter of this book.

Half a World Away is told from two perspectives: Kerry's and Noah's. Separated in the care system when Noah was a toddler, Kerry is desperate to get back in touch with her baby brother, but he doesn't even know she exists. Once Noah agrees to meet with Kerry, he realises their lives have been very different. He was adopted, but she never was; whilst he grew up in a well-off family and has now become a barrister, she was forced to fend for herself and is now working as a cleaner and single parent to her son.

Kerry tells Noah she just wants to have her brother back, and become a family again, but Kerry has an ulterior motive for reaching out. You see, Kerry has cancer, and she's not sure how to tell her son or how to sort out treatment when there's no one else she can rely on to look after him.

This really was a tough read. I fell in love with Kerry's character: she loves her son more than anything, but is stern with him and keeps him in line. Her life has been difficult and she's definitely a character to admire in her strength and her vulnerability. Noah's character is also a great one: we really see him progress from being quite a selfish twenty-something who can't quite put enough into his marriage to keep it going, or to help his wife understand him. Yet as the book progresses he not only really starts to work on himself in therapy with her, but looks out for their daughter and matures a lot in his reactions to Kerry and her son.

Now on to the sad bit. Kerry has cancer, and as the book goes on we see not only the devastating conversations she has to have with the people she loves about her treatment, but also the moment when we find out, and the characters find out, that palliative care is the only option. My heart broke a little for Noah finding out that the sister he's just come to know and love won't be here for much longer, and I can hardly think about them telling her son and him visiting her hospice bed without wanting to well up. 

Mike Gayle's writing is so incredibly emotive and well written that I can still picture the scenes of Kerry being visited in her final days, as well as the sparkliest funeral you could imagine. I read this well over a month ago now and I'm still absolutely devastated by how beautiful and just how deeply sad it is. I think I'm going to have to devour all of the rest of his books once I've had a chance to recover from this one because sometimes you just need your heart stomped on a little, and this really went IN.

What was your favourite book you read last month?

Follow me on Bloglovin | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


  1. Oh no! I don't know if I could get through this one. I may be too sensitive for it, haha. It sounds fantastic, though. You can definitely see a book's quality in whether or not it keeps you thinking about it for the days (or weeks or months) after you finish.

    It's been so long since I've read a book, I seriously have to check my Goodreads to see what the last one was. But, the only book I got through in the last month was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It's a good read, though a bit simple. The style of writing was interesting though, entirely through letters and telegraphs - a good way to explore multiple perspectives where other historical fiction pieces kind of struggle (in my opinion)!

    Erin // Blog

  2. I struggle to read anything too sad like this - I can't see the pages for crying! The last book I read was Ingredients for Happiness by Lucy Knott, and I tell you I cried at random bits because some of it related to me, and it took me weeks to pick it back up again, only to bawl my eyes out more! I might have to add this to list and see if I can get through it :) Tania xx | Tania Michele


I read each and every one of your comments, and really appreciate the time you've taken to add them! If you want or need a more immediate response then contact me through my twitter @stephhartley4. Thank you!