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Reviewed by Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorite
The Finest Hat in the Whole World by Colleen A. Parkinson brings alive a world that is now consigned to history. Opening on New Year’s Eve in 1916, the backdrop, seen through the eyes of Phena and Des, is of young American boys excited about the chance of being drafted to fight in Europe, and goes on through the catastrophic influenza pandemic, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. Des, thirty, overweight and depressed, with alcohol abuse in his past, has dedicated himself, the only one of her children prepared to do so, to caring for his almost senile mother. Nine-year-old Phena reappears in his life when Des’s sister-in-law, Louise, is desperate for a break from “the bratty child.” Can Des tame what his brother Gerald calls Phena’s “feral viciousness” in one short summer?
I absolutely loved The Finest Hat in the Whole World. Colleen A. Parkinson has created an extended family who truly step off the pages and live. The result is a character-driven story that makes the reader feel love, hate, sympathy, joy, despair, the power of Our Lord… every emotion that exists: for me, that is the mark of a very talented author. Des and Phena tell the story, and it is a beautiful, intriguing, and emotional tale, with unexpected twists, Also, it demonstrates Ms. Parkinson’s deep understanding of human nature and memories of childhood. “She spied his hat, remembered that once upon a time she tried to knit him a new hat. She had no talent for knitting something as complicated as a hat.”