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The Jack Newton Radio by Jon Lawrence

By Charlotte Carus on 19th September 2017

  The Jack Newton Radio is a moving and ultimately uplifting novel that deals with the twin themes of love and loss. It tells the story of eccentric pensioner Anwyn Jones, who returns to her coastal hometown of St David’s in Pembrokeshire, Wales, after the death of her husband, Michael. The couple had been devoted to each other to the point that they had kept themselves removed from the world outside. They had never raised a family nor cultivated friendships, and had never owned a TV or surfed the internet. Instead, they passed their time conversing and reading poetry, with Michael being a noted lecturer on the subject. So the loss of her soulmate, understandably, leaves Anwyn adrift, and the shock of finding herself suddenly alone has a physical as well as emotional impact. She notices that her memory is beginning to fail her and dreads that it could be the first stage of dementia. Having avoided virtually all forms of technology when married, losing her memories would steal away the only memento she has left of her beloved husband. Upon moving into the tiny dilapidated cottage overlooking the sea, she finds among the cobwebs and dusty floorboards a battered old radio. Anwyn turns it on and discovers a local poetry programme featuring the work of mysterious poet Jack Newton. Quickly, she begins to find solace in his simple yet poignant poetry, tuning in every night at 9pm to hear him read his work, which deals predominantly with the theme grief. Jack’s soothing verse support her as she adjusts to life on her own, but a search for more information about the poet draws a total blank. After a visit to the surgery following an injury caused by her declining memory, Anwyn strikes up an unlikely friendship with a fractured family coming to terms with their own issues.         Maggie, a kindly nurse who had tended to her wounds, opens up her home to Anwyn and the cantankerous old lady bonds with her as she tries to repair the damage of her husband Huw’s unfaithful intentions – something that he, himself, feels deep remorse for. She also spends time with their sensitive son Peter, who in his way is as isolated as Anwyn, being bullied at school and only finding solace in nature. Together, they form a support network which allows the widow to move beyond, if not forget, her own grief. But it is a crisis involving Peter, the open sea and the lighthouse shining out each night into the darkness that allows Anwyn to fully reconnect and move on with her life. The Jack Newton Radio is the third novel by Norfolk-based author and poet Jon Lawrence, who was inspired to write it as a way of dealing with losses in his own life, including the death of a close friend in the 9/11 terrorist attack and the passing of his mother. Through the characters, he explores the idea that grief and love are two sides of the same emotion and cannot be divided. Grief, like love, never really fades, but it can be handled by building new connections. His thoughtful and symbolic story includes a special section at the close of the book featuring a selection of poems by the fictional Jack Newton, which is a nice bonus. The story of Anwyn’s recovery also has an unexpected twist in the tale to watch out for towards the end, and all in all will touch readers with its affirmation of the enduing power of companionship. The Jack Newton Radio, by Jon Lawrence, is available now priced £6.99 in paperback and £2.50 in Kindle Edition. Visit Amazon UK

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