Meet Ollie. He’s eleven years old. He loves rules, has memorized every world capital and every soccer player in the Premier League, and hasn’t yet met a Killer Sodoku puzzle he can’t solve. He hates being asked two questions at once, or when grown-ups use words with double meanings. He loves his family fiercely, but sometimes he cannot control his temper. And now, he must face a sudden tragedy for which there is no solution.
When Ollie’s happy-go-lucky, larger-than-life father, Rich, dies of brain cancer, Ollie’s life is thrown into disarray. His mother, Ruth, won’t get out of bed. His aunt Nessa, Rich’s best friend, tries to take charge in her forceful, no-nonsense way, but to no avail. His eccentric grandmother, who lives in a ramshackle cottage in the woods, wants them to move in with her. His other grandparents are struggling with their own health issues as they mourn the loss of their only son. The only thing that makes sense to Ollie is the puzzle he’s convinced his dad left behind for him to solve: six gifts, one for each member of the family, that will spell out the secret he’s sure his dad figured out right before he died: what it means to be alive.
Alternating between Ollie’s point of view and the five other members of his family, this beautiful, touching novel paints a portrait of a family who must learn to come together in their grief. How these six characters each undertake this journey of healing is at the heart of this deeply poignant yet ultimately uplifting read.