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A Funny Kind of Paradise

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  67 reviews
When her husband left her with a baby, a toddler and a fledgling business, Francesca managed--she wasn't always gentle or patient, but the business thrived and Chris and Angelina had food to eat. At nearly 70, she feels she's earned a peaceful retirement. But when a massive stroke leaves her voiceless, partially paralyzed and wholly reliant on the staff of an extended care ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published March 9th 2021 by Random House Canada
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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By Jo Owens

It amazed me that this is a debut novel by Jo Owens and I really wonder if she can outdo herself with a second one. The writing kept me glued to it and turning pages, despite the very hard focus of the book. Here the main character was not beginning her life, she was at the end of her life and there is no “hail Mary passes” at this stage… so there is nowhere to go but death. But the writing was beautifully done with a great deal of empathy and compassion. The
Apr 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
After spending her life building her own business and raising two children alone, Francesca is looking forward to a quiet retirement, but when a massive stroke leaves her partially paralyzed, unable to speak, and living in a long-term care facility, her plans are obviously turned upside down. Now, she spends her days watching and listening to the care aides that support her and the other four women in her shared room, while also being forced to confront the choices she made in her past and the r ...more
This is a lovely and heart-warming story. The epistolary framing really works well for this book - it holds your attention despite being told from the perspective of a mute woman who is only able to move one arm due to a stroke (and thus is limited to only what she can see from her bed or wheelchair). This book was a lovely tribute to care aides, but it did come off a little saccharine at times. The end felt wonderfully final without being obnoxiously bow-tied. I would recommend this book with t ...more
May 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
This novel is written from the viewpoint of a woman who had a stroke that left her unable to speak. Her mental capacities are still okay. She lives in a nursing home and she writes about her days and nights there. She has learned to communicate with staff with her one hand and facial expressions. The author has been a care aid for 20+ years and she really paints a picture - at times sad, ridiculous, happy and tragic.
Mar 22, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, canlit
This book was recommended to me, and I am sad to say I cannot recommend it to others. I was really surprised that someone of Ann-Marie MacDonald's gifts loved it?!

The book just does not work. I get it. I see what Owens is trying to achieve but it just doesn't work. A first-person narrative from someone primarily limited to witnessing means there are huge gaps in the story. I see the point, which seems to be to illustrate the struggles of a character with a limited ability to communicate and her
Rosie | rossiereads
Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was an enjoyable read and was a very unique point of view for the protagonist, Francesca, recovering from a stroke, unable to communicate everything she is thinking and feeling to those around her.

The book gave me a great appreciation to those working in long-term care, giving a perspective I'd not thought of previously, even when visiting elderly relatives in these scenarios.

Ultimately, it's a story of "it's never too late" to grow and change your ways, however, interwoven with light and d
Jun 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
So enjoyed this book. The author was a health care aide for over 20 years and this is her first novel. Francesca suffers a stroke and ends up in a nursing home. She is unable to speak, eat and is paralyzed on the right side. She is totally reliant on the care of the staff. Francesca misses her previous life but becomes involved in life in the care facility. We learn about the other residents in Francesca's room but I particularly like following the dialogue between aides and between aides and re ...more
Mar 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
I loved this novel!

Francesca Jensen (Frannie) is a resident in an extended care facility in Victoria, B.C. A massive stroke has left her mute, partially paralyzed, and tube-fed. She is totally reliant on the staff for her care. She spends her days watching and listening to the four other women who share her room and the rotating crew of care aides. She also reflects on her life as a single mother raising two children (Chris and Angelina) while managing her own accounting business.

Though she ca
Luanne Ollivier
Mar 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
It was this description from that had me picking up Jo Owens' debut novel, A Funny Kind of Paradise.

"A poignant, uplifting, brilliantly insightful story of one woman's end-of-life reckoning with her past, her lost daughter and herself, for readers of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Still Alice and Elizabeth Is Missing."

If you're of a certain age, you will have spent time visiting loved ones in care facilities. I have. And it's hard. I read the first few chapters and thought - I just don'
Enid Wray
May 29, 2021 rated it liked it
Enid - A Funny Kind of Paradise - Yes, this is reminiscent of the titles it is compared to in the blurb - all of which I thoroughly enjoyed - but there’s something just that little bit off with this one for me. It’s almost trying too hard… the background voices - the care aides talking shop - feels forced, preachy, too much like the author trying to make a (political) statement about how hard they work and how undervalued they are. (Both of which are true…).

But then, I totally get where she is
Jun 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Left by her husband, Francesca runs an accounting business to support her two children with the help of unmarried Anna who has no children and runs a diner. Her busy life is made more interesting when her youngest, Angelina, is a wild child from beginning to end when she disappears without a trace as she and her boyfriend move to Montreal. As years go by, Francesca continues her close friendship with Anna whom she eventually cares for after her cancer diagnosis. Two years later, Francesca suffer ...more
Sandy Brehl
This was recommended to me by a friend whose choices are not always a good fit. when I read ABOUT it I gave it a try, not from the library bu from an actual purchase. I'm so glad I did. In the two days it took to finish I must ahve told five people about it, and it now sales in an envelope to send to my sister and on from there to other siblings and the adults in their family.
The author writes from twenty years' experience in as a trained care aid in a long term center, and every word resonates
Mar 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was a REALLY insightful and touching view of what life is like for both patients, relatives and especially the staff who work in care homes, which makes sense since the author has twenty years of experience in the field. I was very impressed with this debut told with equal measures heart, humor and sorrow. At nearly 70 years of age Franny is moved into a long-term care home when she suffers a major stroke that leaves her partially paralyzed, unable to talk and with a feeding tube. She is wh ...more
If you've spent any time in hospitals waiting for someone to resurface from a stroke or heart attack, or spent weeks and months waiting as your loved one's organs shut down then a lot of this book will feel familiar. Death and dying is not an easy topic to talk about or read about. Very logical parts of my brain have understood enough about decline that the how makes sense. What doesn't make sense is the after, the what now, the non-conversations and regrets between you and that person. Other ti ...more
May 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Jo has written a remarkable book, which in spite of the subject matter, I found comforting. Don't be put off thinking it will be sad and depressing, because it is anything but.

Having lost both my beloved parents in the past 2 years has been heartbreaking, leading to me to put this book aside after I bought it - it was too soon. However, seeing it on my shelf and deciding now was the time turned out to be a blessing.

Jo tells it like it is, mirroring my experience with my Mom as she moved from i
Mar 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
I loved reading this brand new release from Canadian author Jo Owens. To pass peacefully in ones sleep after a long, long life is what we hope for our loved ones and ourselves. But that’s not what happens to our protagonist who in her early 70s; she has a stroke, is mostly paralyzed, looses the ability to talk and now relies on the staff at a long term care home for the necessities of life. Now here’s where the awakening begins; a successful career woman and single parent, Francesca finally is f ...more
May 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
I really enjoyed this book and I'm glad I happened to stumble upon it! I spent years visiting my great-aunt in her care home, so I was drawn to the plot of this novel.

70 year old Francesca (Frannie), lives in a care home after becoming paralyzed and is unable to speak after suffering a stroke. She spends her days observing her roommates and listening to the happens in her care home as well as the stories of her care givers. I was afraid the book would be written as one long monologue of Frannie
May 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of Fran who has a debilitating stroke in her late 60s and is living out her days in a long term care home. To me the theme of this story is about life in the long term care home and focuses on the care givers who work in the home. The book was emotional for me. Feeling sadness for the characters in the home and feeling respect for the caregivers that work in the home but it also made me angry thinking about the stories in the press about care homes that don’t care properly for ...more
Christine Abrams
Apr 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book in a long while that I read through with the enthusiasm of my youth! The main character grabbed me be my breastbone and tugged me around like a rag doll. The humour and pathos combined to grip me. I had to stop and read the funny bits out loud to my family.

In this time when the crappiness of our system of care for our elders has been SO highlighted by the pandemic, it is also a grave and timely look into a future that every single one of us are facing, if we aren't lucky
Mar 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Was not expecting this book. It is a tough read for anyone with aging parents, but a beautiful homage to the care givers of those in care homes. The residents are treated with respect and dignity, which I fear in reality may not always be the case. I was not surprised to read that the author is a care aide... She clearly has the compassion and depth of knowledge to write about it.

A lovely story about finding peace at the end of one's life.
It is a recent publication, so I am surprised there
Apr 05, 2021 rated it liked it
I am not sure what to think of this book. It was good but older readers might find it unsettling. I would not recommend it for my mother who actually lives where it is set - Victoria, British Columbia. She is 86 and lives on her own. She still loves to read but seems to not be interested in books with issues around aging. She says they are depressing. At first I didn't find this book depressing but instead thought - I appreciate not being at that stage yet. But by the end of the book - I am thin ...more
Tracey Adams
Apr 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks-read
Fantastic insight into how you should take stock of your life at anytime and assess whether you are on the right track, or do you and can you change to improve your life and those around you. You can engage with each individual character and see how positive and negative interactions effect your current, future and past reactions. Loved how the thoughtfulness of people enrich your life.
Looking forward to reading more novels by Jo Owens. Especially enjoyed the audio version, read by Maggie Hucul
Apr 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and would rate between 4 and 4.5 stars. It is a poignant, thought- provoking story of a stroke victim as she reflects on her daily and past life. While the book is at times sad, it also written with warmth, with bits of humour thrown in. It’s perspective of life in a care facility through the eyes of a stroke victim were eye-opening as to the daily struggles and challenges of both the patients and their care providers. We can only hope that if we do end up in a care fa ...more
Peace and Grace in a nursing home

Being of a 'certain' age myself I was drawn to a book about a nursing home & end of life story . we get to know a perfect place where the caregivers are human but really care about the people they take care of. The ingenious way someone who cannot talk and can use only half of her body is amazing. Sad, haunting, loving story about a stroke victim who is not a victim at all but a fully realized woman and her friends and her family. May I someday have her patience
Jun 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book made me laugh and cry!! I loved Frannie and all of her roommates and Aides Molly was my favourite and Mich. I work in a group home setting with deaf and blinds clients and was recommended this book by a fellow nurse friend. This book left me speechless and really touched my heart deeply. My Nan has a lot of medical issues but she still keeps proving everyone wrong and her and the main character are both Frans 💕 I highly recommend this book to everyone! It’s a heavy read at times lots o ...more
Tammy Schoch
Mar 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shared humanity - Our last address

What a wonderful, true-to-life book about creating a true home in so many people’s final physical address at a long term care facility. Nurse aides are the unsung heroes, bringing comfort and hope and a sense of home to a place that is quite institutional without their influence. They don’t turn away from the realities of our lives, but face it all with courage, dignity, and wit.
Susan Scott
Apr 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
I’m so glad I heard the author, Jo Owens, interviewed on CBC. I bought her book that same day and have enjoyed every minute of reading it!
As a care aide myself I particularly enjoyed the way this book is written. Very much the way things are in facility life. I loved the characters, especially Francesca- her inner dialogue and memories. So well done! It’s good to see our seniors represented with such empathy and compassion. I really hope to read more books from this author in the future!
May 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
A tougher read. Facing the same prospects in a few decades is something that no one relishes. We face up to how we were as a person, how we treated people and what quality of life may remain for us.

This was a gentle, humane perspective on life in a nursing home in its practicality, its ups and downs and the losses and fragile moments of humanity and great care for people no longer able to handle their own care.

It caused reflection.
Jun 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Hard to read at times because the subject matter hit close to home. Beautiful snapshot of a woman coming to terms with life in an extended care facility after suffering a stroke, and the colorful cast of characters who make up this chapter of her life. Told in bite-sized snippets sprinkled with memories and internal conversations between the narrator Frannie and her dearest friend Anna. Easy to read, sad, and touching.
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Dark horse, who wins the race by a mile!

The final months of a woman who’s had a stroke and is in assisted living.
She cannot talk and is fully disabled BUT has her mind and hearing.
The story of her life past and present is told by her as is she is speaking to
her best friend and through the conversations of the care aides. Difficult subject
Handled with empathy and reality.
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