Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Ronan Hession

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LEONARD AND HUNGRY PAUL is the story of two quiet friends trying to find their place in the world. It is about those uncelebrated people who have the ability to change the world, not by effort or force, but through their appreciation of all that is special and overlooked in life. 

This was very special from the moment I began reading. Although I finished this book a number of weeks ago, it hasn’t left my mind and I do keep seeing it on so many, many lists of end of year favourites.

Reading it was truly like applying a much needed balm to my soul, and as we close in so quickly to the end of this year, I think it’s a much needed one for all. This post has been sitting here for a little bit and I opened it today and realized that I need to finish it so I can talk about it some more.

To once again reference Literary Hub’s statement made at the beginning of their “Best of the Decade” lists: “Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some damn fine literature. We’ll take our silver linings where we can.”

It has been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised past couple of years and Leonard and Hungry Paul was the kind of book that was so needed to block out the noise, the anger, the soul-crushing news. It was so perfect to crawl inside and just forget about those difficulties and anxieties and enjoy this wonderful, wonderful story of two socially awkward friends navigating the world as only they know how.

I bought this for my Kobo after seeing it often and spoken with much praise on Twitter. It isn’t being released in North America until Spring 2020 but I found it was available as an e-book, so I quickly bought it! Now that I see this cover for its North American release, oh wow did I light up with a big smile. This is a really great cover and one where the designer really got it! The Scrabble board pieces on it are PERFECTION! I’m definitely going to buy this version so it can sit proudly on my shelf — but to get me to re-read it because this is definitely a book deserving of many re-readings.

The thing is, for Hungry Paul the world was a complicated place, with people themselves being both the primary cause and chief victims of its complexity. He saw society as a sort of chemistry set, full of potentially explosive ingredients which, if handled correctly could be fascinating and educational, but which was otherwise best kept out of reach of those who did not know what they were doing.

In the world as we know it today, including in the business world where everything is more so, communication was now primarily conducted through email. Years of effort spent teaching the greatest business minds how to write template letters was coming undone, as the art of expression had not kept pace with technological developments. A lexicon of classic phrases, once thought perennial, was now facing obsolescence.

There is a part in the book where Hungry Paul is in the bathroom with his sister and he launches into this truly brilliant soliloquy about stopping this need to feel you need to fix the world, just live your life and fill it with happiness and don’t worry about what others are doing , stop trying to solve everyone else’s problems and just live your life doing what makes you happy. Living a quieter and happier life for yourself is all you need to concern yourself with. Now, I have wildly paraphrased this, but the essence of what he was saying has really stayed with me. The ending with Hungry Paul’s idea to live a quieter lifestyle was wonderful, and I’ve seen many posts about people adopting and applying his idea to their lives.

It’s a very special book. I recommend highly. It really is too bad the release date isn’t until after this new year’s arrival – it would make such a wonderful way to spend a quiet moment with yourself as this year (finally) comes to an end and, perhaps like it did for me, apply this balm to your soul.

Hession has said he’s finished his second novel and that, “I put everything of myself and my imagination into this. It’s the truest account I can write about what it means to be human. And it was NOT easy.

Well, I found Leonard and Hungry Paul to be an incredible account of what it means to be human, so I’m completely anxious to read what he has coming out next!

Leonard and Hungry Paul is appearing on many, many best read of the year lists for 2019, so I hope you’ll be able to say the same when you get a chance to read it in 2020.