Ask a Bookseller: A novel celebrating everyday beauty

A book cover with an image of a fish.
"Leonard and Hungry Paul" by Rónán Hession.
Courtesy of publisher

Stephanie Hochschild of The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois, knows the book that she is recommending sounds quiet and simple, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. Far from it. The novel is “Leonard and Hungry Paul” by debut Irish author and musician Rónán Heston, and it recently came out in paperback. 

Leonard and Hungry Paul are friends; they’re both single, in their 30s, and still live at home. Leonard is mourning the loss of his mother. He writes children's encyclopedias, and he’s held onto a sense of youthful wonder about the world. Hungry Paul — we don’t really ever learn how he earned that name — is content to live happily with his parents and doesn't see anything wrong with that (though his sister does.) He lives in the present and takes pleasure in whatever is around him. 

“So this sounds like not much,” Hochschild says “but it is charming and warm, and generous and funny. It's not a book for people who are looking for action or adventure or exotic lands. It’s a book that celebrates the beauty of the everyday, the poetry and family and friends and just playing Scrabble over dinner.” 

She also appreciated the clever turns of phrase in the writing, which nabbed her with this first sentence: “Leonard was raised by his mother alone with cheerfully concealed difficulty, his father having died tragically during childbirth.”  

How could you not be curious to keep reading? 

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