Leonard and Hungry Paul

Melville House. Aug. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9781612198484. $25.99. F
DEBUT Leonard ghostwrites children’s encyclopedias. Hungry Paul is a substitute postman. They are best friends who both live with parents, enjoy learning and discussing facts, and prefer strategic board games to other forms of entertainment. When Leonard’s mother passes away a few weeks before Hungry Paul’s sister, Grace, is to marry, they find themselves poised at the thresholds of diverging futures. For Leonard, a budding romance may fall apart because of his guilelessness. And Grace has been pushing the idea that Hungry Paul needs to get a full-time job and leave their parents’ house, for the good of all. These and other circumstances compel both men beyond their comfort zones, and their friendship undergoes some strain. But their decency prevails, and their friendship expands as they embrace new experiences. In the end, Leonard and Hungry Paul’s love for each other and for others around them might change the world for the better.
VERDICT Dublin-based songwriter Hession has written a tender and hilarious debut. The title characters are unforgettable, and their shared amazement of the world is a gift to readers. Essential reading, especially in these times.
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