The Charity of Strangers
You can find almost anything in a charity shop, but can you find love?
You can certainly find friendship and there is both laughter and tears ahead when 19yr old Zaffron, lonely, anxious and without direction, meets Blaire Daintry, good-looking, charming, and gay.
Both volunteers in the charity shop, he has a hidden agenda, she has secrets, but they are friends from the start, despite Blaire’s constant sparring with Ida, the stern, good-hearted older volunteer who Zaffron admires. And perhaps Ida has secrets too.
Together with other victims of the city’s housing crisis, Blaire and Zaffron set up a safe and happy home. Secure at last, she tells him of the dreadful incident in her childhood that has marred her life, but not even his total acceptance gives her the confidence to start a relationship with an attractive and decent young army sergeant who falls in love with her.
Is it fear of the truth coming out that holds her back? Or is there some other reason, buried too deep in her heart for her to recognise?
I was born and grew up in Lancashire, gained several nursing qualifications and had the privilege of a long and varied nursing career, briefly in the Royal Army Nursing Service abroad, mainly in the NHS in UK.
True love and a happy family came my way and now I have the time to read, write and remember.
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The Charity of Strangers couldn’t be a more apt title for this story as it centres on a group of individuals who meet through volunteer work at a charity shop. They start as strangers but end as good friends, and have a unique bond that unites them from that point onwards.
Zaffron is the principal character who wants more from life but doesn’t know how she might achieve it – living in a squat in fear of her life does not inspire her with much confidence to break out of the comfort zone. With a job interview lined up, she plans to “take” a coat from the charity stop but instead gets caught up in a conversation with the ladies running the store and can’t bring herself to steal from them. Instead she contemplates working there as a volunteer which she hopes might look good when she is really ready to find paid work.
The shop soon begins to mean more to her and she grows in confidence. When Blaire joins the workforce, she loves it even more. He’s closer to her age and a lot of fun. Life is picking up.
However, what Zaffy doesn’t realise is that Blaire is also keeping a secret. As their friendship blossoms, their lives becomes more intricately involved. Blaire moves into the squat and soon things change there for the better. In fact, as far as Zaffron is concerned, when Blaire is around everything seems better.
As time passes, Zaffy’s expectations of her future change – she applies for the assistant manager role at the shop with high hopes while also taking classes at night school for GCSE English. Suddenly she has prospects, she is more independent and with things changing at the squat (including the reason for her being so scared now gone) she is even open to a little romance. Unfortunately, this is where things begin to unravel. But there is a silver lining which I won’t reveal here 😉
I enjoyed reading this; a true slice of life drama that touches upon issues that are often side-lined – homelessness and the housing crisis, abuse and poverty – while also looking at the positive elements of life through friendship, having a purpose in life and caring about others. There are moments of sadness and hurt balanced with joy, hope and love.
Definitely a book I’d recommend to readers of coming of age and women’s fiction. It has a strong core of optimism and friendship wrapped in a shell of harsh reality.
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