BELOW THE BIG BLUE SKY by Anna McPartlin | Blog Tour Review (@annamcpartlin @ZaffreBooks) #RememberRabbitHayes

Publisher: Zaffre
Available in Ebook, Audio, Hardback (23 July 2020) | Paperback (4 February 2021)
400 pages
Source: Copy provided for review by publisher


How does a family pick up the pieces, when the one person who held them all together has gone?

When forty-year-old Rabbit Hayes dies, she leaves behind a family broken by grief. Her mother Molly is distraught and in danger of losing her faith. Her father Jack spends hour upon hour in the family attic, poring over his old diaries, losing himself in the past.

Rabbit’s brother Davey finds himself suddenly guardian to her twelve-year-old daughter Juliet. Juliet might be able to fill a hole in Davey’s heart – but how can he help Juliet through her grief when he can barely cope with his own?

But even though the Hayes family are all fighting their own battles, they are drawn together by their love for Rabbit, and their love for each other. In the years that follow her death they find new ways to celebrate and remember her, to find humour and hope in the face of tragedy, and to live life to its fullest, as Rabbit would have wanted.

Below a Big Blue Sky will make you laugh, cry and shout with joy for the colourful, unruly Hayes family as they battle with the loss of their beloved Rabbit, the daughter, mother, sister and friend, who in her own crazy way taught each of them how to live, and goes on showing them how to love from beyond the grave.


Although I had already bought the previous book, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, ages ago it had sadly languished on the book shelf until recently, so I was able to read the two books close together and spend the maximum amount of time with the Hayes family.

Below the Big Blue Sky takes up from the immediate aftermath of Rabbit’s death from cancer in the hospice. The Hayes family are all grief stricken by the loss of Rabbit and in the early days are just going through the motions. Rabbit’s daughter Juliet, insists that she no longer wants to be called by her nickname ‘Bunny’ as her mother is no longer here. It was Juliet that my heart broke for the most – she may be with her much loved uncle Davey, Rabbit’s brother, who has now taken over as her guardian, but she is taken away from all that she knows and the family’s love and comfort and events later in the book cause her even more anguish.

Rabbit’s father Jack distances himself from everyone and retreats to his loft – ‘gone to lunch’ as the family term it, to lose himself in family photo albums, diaries and memories, whilst Molly, the outspoken and feisty matriarch of the family who used to sort out everyone’s problems is broken. She has lost her faith, and lost her way. 

This extremely moving and at times hilariously funny story covers a whole myriad of emotions in the year or so that follow. As well as grieving for Rabbit, family members have their own health problems to deal with which are the cause of so much trauma and heartache.

With each chapter told by one of the main family members, we follow this broken family as they try to find a way to heal and to slowly come together. It’s not easy, there are times when they seem to be at war with each other, particularly Jack and Molly.

It’s not all gloom and tears. There are some fantastic characters, all so beautifully drawn and there are moments of hilarity and tea snorting humour. One of my favourites was Francie – a family friend from Rabbit’s early days in the band and some of the one liners were just brilliantly timed. Likewise, Ryan, Grace’s troublesome son. He may have caused the family some grief with his one man crimewave but underneath he had a heart of gold and somehow knew just the right thing to do at the right time.

The author states at the back of the book that Below the Big Blue Sky was written to stand alone and that it’s not necessary to have read Rabbit Hayes first. I would certainly agree, however you would get so much more from the characters if you do also read Rabbit Hayes.

Written with sensitivity, humour and warmth, this was a fantastic read. I loved my time spent with the Hayes family; even though Rabbit doesn’t have a physical presence, her words and the family’s memories of her bring her back to the page. One to be recommended.

My thanks to Tracy Fenton for the tour invitation and to the publisher for providing a copy to review.

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Anna McPartlin

I’m an Irish novelist and a TV scriptwriter. Currently with 7 fiction titles available to buy online and one children’s title under the name Bannie McPartlin. As of August 2019 I’ve just finished writing ‘Under The Big Blue Sky,’ the follow up to international best selling title ‘The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes.’ This title will be published by Bonnier Zaffer and will be available UK &I IRE and amazon Summer 2020.

My previous short incarnation as a stand-up comedian left an indelible mark. I’m described by all who know me as a slave to the joke and my work focuses on humour and humanity in even the darkness situations.

So if you’d like to take a trip to the dark side and if you are a fan of big, bold characters check out my titles and I hope you enjoy.


If you are not a fan of moderate to severe cursing, best to move on. Either way good luck to you.


I dabble in twitter but often forget it’s there (@annamcpartlin). I’m better on Facebook but not brilliant Anna McPartlin and I really giving it a good old go on instagram #Trying (mcpartlin.anna) and my website is

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