cover image All the Lonely People

All the Lonely People

Mike Gayle. Grand Central, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5387-2016-5

British author Gayle (Half a World Away) returns with a winning tale of a lonely 82-year-old widower. Hubert Bird, a Black immigrant from Jamaica living in south London, gradually lost touch with all of his friends after an unspecified traumatic event five years earlier. When single mother Ashleigh introduces herself as his new neighbor, he shoos her away to take a call from his daughter Rose, whom he’s lied to about having a trio of pals so as not to worry her. When Rose says she’s planning a visit, he scrambles to find friends to fool her. So begins Gayle’s engaging narrative, enriched by flashbacks from 1950s England, when he faced hardships and racism and fell for the white Joyce Pierce while working at a department store. After Joyce gets pregnant and they plan to marry, her racist family disowns her. Decades later, Hubert’s son battles drug addiction and Joyce faces early-onset dementia. In the present, with Hubert still at a loss for friends, he babysits for Ashleigh and agrees to be part of her “Campaign to End Loneliness in Bromley,” which ends up going viral with Hubert as its spokesperson. While a late plot twist feels destabilizing, Gayle finds many endearing moments in Hubert and Ashleigh’s search for friendship and community. Readers will be touched. (July)