The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain: Uplifting and Hopeful

Every day, Albert Entwistle makes his way through the streets of his small English town, delivering letters and parcels and returning greetings with a quick wave and a “how do?” Everyone on his route knows Albert, or thinks they do—a man of quiet routines, content to live alone with his cat, Gracie.   Three months before his sixty-fifth birthday, Albert receives a letter from the Royal Mail thanking him for decades of service and stating that he is being forced into retirement. At once, Albert’s simple life unravels. Without the work that fills his days, what will he do? He has no friends, family, or hobbies—just a past he never speaks of, and a lost love that fills him with regret. And so, rather than continue his lonely existence, Albert forms a brave plan to start truly living, to be honest about who he is . . . and to find George, the man with whom he spent one perfect spring and summer long ago.   One painful yet exhilarating step at a time, Albert begins searching for George and revealing his story to those around him. As he does, something extraordinary happens. Albert finds unlikely allies, new friends, and the courage to help others—even as he seeks the happiness he’s always denied himself. 

What I loved most about this story is the uplifting and hopeful message that it conveys. One of the elements the author really nails is the voice of the character. Albert Entwistle starts out afraid to share the truth of who he is, not only his loves, his passions but any hint of his warmth and sensitivity. He holds himself apart and the truly joyful exploration is when he slowly begins to reach out and is accepted, he opens up more and more. So many people are still afraid to share their truths but this story shows that individuals can learn to build a community, even in the places they least expect.

Not only is the voice of Albert compelling but so is the voice of Nicole and the other characters. Nicole is especially endearing as she struggles to fit in, while in different ways from Albert, her difficulties allow her to be empathetic to Albert and they end up helping each other, building a beautiful friendship. The embracing of other’s differences and the ability to be proud of who we are encourages others to do the same. 

The story does a brilliant job of exploring Albert’s past a bit at a time as he slowly accepts himself, showing the history of what it was like to be gay in Britain but also the changes that have occurred over time, thanks to individuals and groups who have fought for the rights of all. That exploration of history through the voice of Albert’s past is part of what makes this story so uplifting and hopeful. 

If you like stories that are upbeat, beautiful and embracing of all no matter who we are, then this story is for you. Read for the hope and the changes, for the adorable characters and community built through the novel. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 friendships

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