All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle

Book Review by Debbie Stone and Gini Cunningham

Debbie: My favorite quote from All the Lonely People: “Extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people like you and me, but only if we open ourselves up enough to let them.” Gini throws too many compliments my way. I feel that she and I round each other out very well in our reading preferences and reviews. I first heard of this book on a Podcast called “Currently Reading” and they mentioned it was a curmudgeon story. I do like a good curmudgeon story and when I mentioned it to Gini, she said, “Let’s do it”.  

There is a term in the book world that I’ve heard tossed about lately, called uplit. Uplit in a story is when it starts out a bit depressing and then takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions that ends up in a satisfying way. This describes exactly how I felt about Mike Gayle’s, All the Lonely People. It is sad and happy and shocking, but in the end, it completely lifted my mood.

Hubert Bird’s story is told in alternating timelines where we learn about his past, his hardships, his loves, and his heartbreaks. Throughout his life he experiences racism, the challenges of a drug addicted son, an interracial marriage, and eventually losing his wife to dementia. No one can’t blame him for being a curmudgeon! But with the help of a lovely neighbor and her daughter along with some unique friends they meet, his life is changed for the better throughout the course of the book. I can’t tell you more for fear of giving spoilers, but be ready for all the feelings on this Uplit, roller coaster ride of a book. 

Gini: It seems that when I branch out into fiction, I end up disappointed at my selection and its content. Debbie, however, finds a multitude of excellent reads and All the Lonely People represents one. I found it hard to contain my enthusiasm for it as I sped along, periodically relating to Debbie, “I love this book.” You see, the idea is that I write my review; Debbie writes hers; I combine the two, zeroing in on our allotted 750 words. Invariably we exceed our word allotment, but editing helps solve the issue. Main character, Hubert, a Jamaican native, lives alone with his cat Puss after the death of his wife. His daughter lives in Australia and they correspond frequently; his son has vanished into the embrace of drugs. Withdrawn and isolated, he expresses contentment with living solitarily until his new neighbor Ashleigh and her daughter invade his private life, filling in the quiet spaces with her outgoing enthusiasm and exuberance – both wonderful and annoying for Hubert. 

Together, along with friends, they launch the Campaign to End Loneliness in Bromley, their community outside of London. The undertaking catches the eye of local residents and officials, newspapers, and television as each expands the reach and magnitude of this worthy cause. With a style that wanders past and present, reality and non-reality, characters that go and then return, prejudice and acceptance, the reader is never lost, only inspired to read on and learn more. Every event resonates with personal experiences I have faced or observed. Sprinkled in with this you will find a scattering of English and Jamaican specialty phrases like “kissing his teeth” or Hubert using “me” instead of “I” and “them” instead of they”. At first the “me” part distracted me, but soon it became conventional gramMarch 

I found the song “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles racing through my mind as I read. When I mentioned this to my sisters, they had no idea what/who I was talking about! Eleanor Rigby? The Beatles? All the Lonely People??? Unbelievable, right? Gayle has published several books and I anticipate the release of The Museum of Ordinary People in July. He captivates as he educates bringing each incident alive and filled with valuable connections.

My quote from Hubert: “You see, the key to helping other people out of them loneliness is good old-fashioned perseverance… You’ve got to refuse to give up on people, even if them given up on themselves.”

Debbie: Now I too keep singing the Beatles’ song in my head… Eleanor Rigby, all the lonely people. Just because I wrote that title in the subject line, lol, I won’t be able to get it out of my head all day.