My dad told me that he had to leave the cinema fifteen minutes into the film of this book, because it wasn’t funny – it was too close to home. In his life’s work as a clergyman, he has come across enough people like Miss Shepherd to be unable to see the lighter side. I haven’t seen the film (surprise!), but I know that after I read the book I found the woman in the trailers of the film to be quite unrecognisable as the lady in the van of the book.
This is an immeasurably sad book – but an honest one – about loneliness, social mindedness, religion, mental illness. There are many moments that raise a smile – but it is a rye smile – it is not Laugh Out Loud comedy.
As someone who has always seen the romantic side of living in a van / houseboat / cabin in the woods, this book is a reminder of the darker side of living outside of society in that way. It’s also a frightening reminder that we still don’t do enough as a society to help the mentally ill, or the old (even decades later).