Hazzley is at loose ends, even three years after the death of her husband. When her longtime friend Cassandra, café owner, suggests that she start up a conversation group. Four people turn up for the first meeting: Gwen, recently widowed, finds herself pet-sitting a cantankerous parrot; Chiyo, a forty-year-old fitness instructor, has cared for her unyielding but gossip-loving mother through the final days of her life; Addie, pre-emptively grieving a close friend who is seriously ill; and Tom, an antique dealer and amateur poet who, deprived of home baking since becoming a widower, comes to the first meeting hoping cake will be served. They are soon joined by Allam, a Syrian refugee with his own story to tell. These six strangers are learning that new beginnings are always possible. This moving, funny and deeply empathic new novel reminds us that life, with all its twists and turns, never loses its capacity to surprise.

Published by HarperCollins, Frances Itani (CRF 2009)’s new book is now out. Read more here.