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Review: The Secret Life of Alfred Entwistle

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Thank you to #NetGalley for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

#TheSecretLifeofAlbertEntwistle #NetGalley

My Interest

While their stories are vastly different, this story made me think of a distant cousin who came out at age 70. It also fit my goal of reading (in this case listening) to more books written by men. Plus, there’s a cat mentioned in the blurb. 

The Story

First a tiny problem: I thought this was modern day. Everyone has cool phones, wifi etc, yet it says Albert is retiring at age 65. Fine–that would make him a year older than my brother. Here’s the problem: In the story he uses 1953 in his password and he leaves school in 1969. Hmmm. If he was 65 today, he’d have been 12 in 1969.

Now the story….

Albert has spent his whole life living in the same town, in the same house and has only had the one job–as a postman (mailman). Back when he was a teenager, when being gay was still a crime in the U.K. [“England” not the University of Kentucky], he fell in love with a new boy in his school named George. Now he is facing retirement and lonely. He looks back on his life and what went on in those days. His police officer father who spoke so derogatorily of the men who hooked up in the public restrooms, the teasing and even bullying of effeminate boys at school. Today, things are different. Albert is a kind soul. He does good in his life. But there is one act that act he can’t forgive himself for and he needs to right that wrong.

Meanwhile, on a nasty housing estate (i.e. a bad government housing project), Nicole is a young, single Black mother trying to bring up her daughter after the father deserted them (somethings are the same the world over). She is struggling to get thru her Cosmetology School and get a job as a stylist and nail technician. She has big plans–she wants to have a mobile salon (I’d love to have that come to my house). Her new guy is a college student (“at Uni”) and is suddenly giving her a song-and-dance about his parents and the allowance they give him.

Albert and Nicole come to be friends when Albert asks her to help him with his new phone. He advises her on the boyfriend, while she helps him find his old love. Together they find companionship and true friendship and have a good bit of fun together.

My Thoughts

I wasn’t sure how this book would go down with me. If it was uber-woke, I’d toss it. Thankfully, it was delightful. I learned that those who fought for gay rights, cared for and watched friends die of AIDS, and advocated for new laws, may not be so terribly thrilled when someone like Albert (or my distant cousin) comes out after the “hard work” is done. That surprised me, but only because I do not live in that culture and, until last year, I’d worked in a very conservative college and was a tad too sheltered. (Take today: I had to Google what “DEI Skills” meant. Turns out my very conservative former employer actually HAD them, just didn’t call them that. And yes, of course they could have done way better at it, but that’s a different post).

I liked Albert–the writing about his loneliness, his fear of reaching out–I totally understood that. It was so well put that I got teary a few times. And, oh his sweet Gracie-cat! Oh! I felt for Nicole–the guy can always leave. Always. I’ve been a single Mom, but I was one by choice. It sucks even though for my kids I’d do it all over again any time. I’ve also been her boyfriend’s parents–advising my kids to skip, or at least go very slow, with potential partners who already have kids in your 20s. It’s that hard to be a young parent–and the single parent has a ton of stuff to work out.

Small Spoiler (sorry, I just have to)

But, it was George I liked most. I’m not really into drag Queens–they’re fun in their way and I loved Julie Murphy’s books with them in them, but I can take it or leave it. George, though, is a drag queen now and a fairly well-known one. And, George was my favorite character. He never let anyone stop him from being who he was. He fought to change the world for teenage boys (and girls and other genders) just like him–marginalized for seeing things differently. He was true to himself. He took the risks knowingly, while Albert stayed home and delivered the mail, took care of a mother he came to loathe and loved his sweet, wonderful, cat. Albert did many sweet and lovely things for people, but George fought for the common good and didn’t compromise. I liked that. I liked Albert, too. Anyone who does what he did for Edith–well, he’s a good guy. In fact, I liked all the characters. This was a really good read.

 

My Verdict

4.0

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain releases on May 31, 2022, but is available for pre-order. 

(I do not make any money from Amazon).

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Review: The Secret Life of Alfred Entwistle

      1. Ohhh there goes my ability to read this book, then. 😦 After losing one of mine (he was 19) last year, I have a hard time reading anything to do with pets dying. Thank you for telling me, I appreciate it.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I had a cat for 18 years and, about 8 years ago, he had to be put down because he went blind. I still miss him to this day. I wanted to get another cat but my husband didn’t. I should have insisted but was so grief-stricken. I loved your review, so good as usual. This does sound like a delightful book. It’s amazing to like all the characters in any novel.

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