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When a night that was supposed to be filled with laughter and celebration ends in the tragic death of her boyfriend John, Emma wonders how she will get her life back on track. Emma has friends and family to rally round to help her with her grief though. Trouble is, they all have problems too and the tragic death of John hurts each and every one of them in different ways. There's Sean, John's best friend who's struggling big time with his guilt/grief and ends up hitting the bottle; Clodagh, Emma's best friend can't help feeling angry about what happens; Anne and Richard struggle to understand their loss but have each other to help them through their grief and Emma's brother Noel questions his faith after the death of his friend. As the friends come to terms with their grief, Emma realises that the only way she'll truly be able to love again is to lay John's ghost to rest, but is that easier said than done?
Usually when I come across a new author it's through searching on Amazon, but I actually came across Anna's books when I was searching for a new background image. I happened upon a site of a book cover designer called Jenny Lloyd and on it, she had the cover for No Way To Say Goodbye by Anna and I loved it (the cover - yes, I judge books by their covers) so I went onto Amazon to see what else Anna had written. I had some spare money left on an Amazon voucher and bought Pack Up The Moon which also had a beautiful cover. It's been sat on my shelf since August and I finally decided to give it a read.
The book starts with Emma worrying whether or not she's pregnant and her relief is palpable when there's no blue line on her pregnancy test. She then carries on her preparations for the night ahead - her friends Richard and Anne have come into some money and are having an inheritance party. It's at that party where the drama unfolds and John ends up dying. It was such a shock to me as although I knew it was coming, it was still unexpected for me. We then see how the tragedy has affected not only Emma but her friends: Sean, Clo, Anne, Richard and even her brother Noel. It's very powerful seeing how differently it affects all 6 of them. McPartlin captures the grief of all six friends perfectly and Clo's in particular was incredibly powerful. It says at the front of the book that Anna lost her parents at a young age so the grief of her characters is undoubtedly real and must be taken from her own experience. Anna explores each friends grief that you can't help but feel so sad for them all that such a tragic thing has happened to them.
McPartlin has created such a fantastic cast of characters in Pack Up The Moon and there wasn't one character I disliked. The entire book is narrated by Emma and as it's her boyfriend that dies, it's understandable she's our main character. I quickly warmed to Emma and her sadness over her loss really comes from the pages. As soon as Sean was introduced I loved him immediately. I knew right from the off that he had a soft spot of sorts for Emma and I wondered how long it would take Emma to realise this. Clo, Anne and Richard were all fantastic characters also. I thought Clo was hilarious and I hoped she would eventually find her Mr Right. I really felt for Anne and Richard, not only had they lost a friend but they also seemed to be having problems having a baby. Surprisingly one of my favourite characters was Father Noel, Emma's priest brother. I'm in no way religious but I could feel the struggle Noel felt regarding the death of his young friend. Noel also appears to be falling in love which adds another dimension to his already confused mind. The only other characters in the book are Emma and Noel's parents and Doreen, Emma's neighbour and I loved them also. It truly is a well-rounded cast of characters and there wasn't one character I disliked which is a rare occurrence.
For most of the book I felt Anna's writing was a little off. I don't mean that in a bad way, the sentences just seemed as if they were written in a different way to what I was used to reading - they were short, snappy sentences and it eventually clicked that it seemed as if Emma was writing to someone throughout the entire book. That was very cleverly done and when all was revealed, it all became clearer and I had the 'ahhh' moment where it all fell into place. McPartlin's writing is hugely enjoyable and I felt that I was able to lose myself completely in the book. The ending of the book almost had me in tears. Because I've never read one of McPartlin's books I wasn't 100% sure I was going to get the happy ending I love to expect. It was touch and go for a while and I wanted to skip to the end of the book to see if it ended happily - I'm such a sucker for a happy ending.
Do not let the pretty cover fool you - Pack Up The Moon doesn't half pack an emotional punch. It's definitely an emotional roller-coaster of a read and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Pack Up The Moon may not be a light or fluffy read but if you like chick lit that packs a punch as well as being heart-warming then this book is for you. Yes, it deals with grief but it also offers hope for loving again and moving past such heartache. Someone may well die at the beginning of the book but it's an uplifting read and I hugely recommend it.