Sophie has died but she's still looking on at her loved ones, discovering their secrets and trying to get her best friend to be with her widowed husband. The novel begins with Sophie having died after being knocked down by a taxi cab. She is viewing her own funeral - all her loved ones are crying for her - and she feels such grief at the sight of her husband, Oliver, and son, Freddie.
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The novel then jumps back five days before the funeral when Sophie goes out with her best friend, Jenny. During their meeting, she tells Jenny that she is bored in her marriage and asks Jenny what is happening with her own engagement - Jenny has been engaged for a year to a divorce lawyer called Sam but they still haven't set a date. Sophie doesn't approve of him.
Then we're back at the funeral, with Sophie watching as Jenny speaks lovingly of her, how much she loved Oliver and Freddie. Afterwards, Oliver asks Jenny if Sophie had spoken about him on the night she died. Jenny doesn't want to break Sophie's confidences, so she doesn't say anything and luckily they get interrupted.
Sophie continues to watch over Oliver and Freddie for days after her death. She notices how Oliver has stopped washing himself or eating. When he takes Freddie to school, Sophie spots immediately how the other mums there are hitting on him.
Jenny tells Sam she is taking Freddie out and realizes that although Sam keeps telling her to move on after Sophie's death, she has no idea how to do this. Sophie had been a huge part of her life, being in it for fifteen years. Sam is angry that Jenny has been spending so much time with Oliver, much more than what she spends with him.
At Oliver's house, Jenny finds one of Sophie's to-do lists and wonders what it means when Sophie wrote down that she had to speak to Jenny about something - however, she doesn't specify what. Oliver sees it too and tells Jenny that Sophie had been frustrated. He can't help feeling something is not right. Jenny tries to reassure him, but he remains conflicted.
At a nearby deli, Jenny runs into one of Sophie's friends, Suze. She informs Jenny that she and some of Sophie's female friends will be starting a committee called Help Ollie. They want to try to be there to assist Oliver and Freddie in whatever ways they can. She invites Jenny to come over to one of their meetings and eventually convinces her to attend.
Sophie thinks about things she wishes she had known prior to her death, such as that she should have had more sex and that real friends (like Jenny) are rare.
Meanwhile, Jenny goes to the meeting with Suze and the other women, and they brainstorm ideas to help Oliver. Some of the suggestions include getting him a cleaner and being there for Freddie, whom teachers have said is constantly tired at school and has suffered another outbreak of lice. Jenny is quick to say she will be there for Freddie.
Sophie watches tender moments between Oliver and Freddie. Her son asks Oliver if he has tried to e-mail or Skype his mother, to which Oliver says he has. Freddie insists that his mother still exists. He also mentions that Jenny looks sad and that he doesn't need another mommy because Jenny will take him swimming. Oliver reassures him that no other woman could ever replace Sophie.
Sam tells Jenny he wants them to set a wedding date and she panics. She tells him she has loads to do to help Oliver and Sam, so the timing isn't right. She cannot imagine having a wedding without Sophie's presence.
Sophie wishes she had found a way to stop Jenny being with Sam. She recalls how something happened between them at a party once. She and Sam had gone to the loo at the same time and he touched her bottom before telling her she was beautiful. Since that incident, she tried avoiding gatherings where he would be present. She never told Jenny about it because she thought that her friend's relationship with Sam wouldn't last long. She was wrong.
Jenny goes over to Oliver's house to help him sort through some of Sophie's belongings. She finds a stack of letters - love letters - and feels guilty about finding them so she doesn't read them. She brings Sophie's clothing to the Help Ollie committee and they take items they like. Jenny is upset when Suze states that soon Oliver will have a new woman in his life.
Sophie muses how everyone has secrets. She notices Sam speaking to some woman at his house and it looks like a very serious conversation…
Oliver, Freddie and Jenny go through old pictures of Sophie. Jenny tells Freddie that his mum is watching over him. He replies that she talks to him all the time.
Sophie watches as her friend Tash arrives to see Oliver - she is wearing red lipstick, which is not her usual color. She watches as Tash tells Oliver she is there for him and that being a divorced woman, she knows what Oliver is going through.
Jenny catches sight of a woman hovering around her flat. Later, after having sex with Sam, she starts texing Oliver and then worries about why he isn't responding. She panics and drives to his house. He smells of alcohol and Jenny is shocked when he asks her how long he should wait before having sex again. He informs her that Tash offered herself to him and he felt guilty because part of him wanted her. He tells Jenny how happy he is that she exists and is there for him, though.
Sophie watches Sam and Jenny having sex but can tell that Jenny is thinking of someone else…
Sophie also watches Tash - who is wearing her boots! - and realizes this woman is in the friend category of being someone Sophie actually doesn't like. She sees Tash meet Sam and they speak of a woman called Dominique. He tells her that he needs a favor from her. Sophie has no idea what the favor is, nor who Dominique could be.
At one of the girls' meetings, they all speak about how tragic it was for Sophie to die and for her marriage to Oliver to have been interrupted. When the subject turns to the horror that Freddie won't have another sibling, Tash says he might. This bristles Jenny.
Sam tells Jenny that he saw Tash and that she's just asking him for divorce advice.
Oliver hires an au pair called Cecille who is twenty years of age and gorgeous. Sophie feels irritated by how beautiful Cecille is and wonders if she has stolen her love letters because she doesn't see them in their usual place in her bedroom…
Sophie starts following Sam to try find out more about Dominique. She sees him speaking to his mother, who remarks that neither he nor Jenny seem happy about their upcoming wedding. Sophie feels frustrated at not being able to prevent the wedding from happening.
When Sophie watches her friends and Oliver at a party, she feels sadly detached but keenly observes what happens. She sees Oliver and her friend Lydia leave together. He offers to walk her home because she lives nearby but she suggests she goes to Oliver for coffee. She cries on his shoulder about her unhappy marriage and get closer. Sophie fears they'll have sex but then Cecille interrupts them.
A woman approaches Jenny's car and startles her. She asks if she knows Sam and if she is Sophie. Jenny says she is not Sophie but Sam is her fiancé. The woman rushes off before Jenny can ask her anything. Later, Jenny asks Sam about the mysterious woman and he says it is probably Dominique, an ex-fling. Jenny doesn't understand why Dominique would have thought she was Sophie.
Meanwhile, Jenny's and Sam's wedding preparations continue and she asks Oliver to accompany her to find a bridal gown. She wants to cry at one point and feels badly about what this experience must be doing to him, but he is ever the gentleman and even pays for the dress she chooses.
The Help Ollie women are flabbergasted when they discover that Oliver was seen with a woman - they think it could be Cecille. They ask Jenny to find out. She is distraught and jealous.
A scene appears of Oliver with an unknown woman in his bedroom. The reader sees her ask him if he is okay and then leave the room half-naked.
Oliver starts to sense something is up with Jenny and when he asks her, she tells him about the gossip surrounding his love life. He confesses that he slept with Tash and they had done cocaine together. He feels guilty and tells her he hasn't forgotten Sophie. He mentions their marriage had not been perfect and Sophie had been bored, wanting another baby.
Jenny confronts Tash about what she did with Oliver and Tash says she shouldn't consider Sophie as her best friend due to Sam's roving eye. She also asks Jenny about Dominique. All this shocks and confuses Jenny, who asks if Tash knows who this Dominique woman is. Tash says she does and will give Jenny her number.
When Freddie gets chickenpox, Jenny is quick to go over to help out at Oliver's house. Sam is annoyed. At the house, Jenny speaks to Cecille who informs her about the incident between Oliver and Lydia, as well as Tash. She then confesses that she loves Oliver and he loves her back. She asks Jenny if she was the one who took the love letters.
Jenny reads a letter from Sophie's stack - it is written from Sam to Sophie. The letter describes how Sophie had gone to meet Sam in a sexy dress and he asks her if it had really been necessary for her to have to see him again to tell him she only wanted to be friends. Jenny is enraged at this discovery, when Oliver arrives. She argues with him about the women he's been sleeping with and then becomes emotional when she tells him she's become too close to him and Freddie. He tells her he feels he is only getting to know her now and that she has been shining brightly in his life. He kisses her, but she says they shouldn't be romantic.
Jenny meets Dominique and discovers that their respective relationships with Sam overlapped. Dominique never extinguished her love for Sam. She tells Jenny that Sam had an unrequited crush on Sophie. Jenny is furious and cancels her wedding.
Trying to notch up some distance from Oliver, Jenny goes to visit her parents in Kent. The Help Ollie committee locates her and pops round for a visit, filling her in on how Sam had cried to one of their mutual friends. They tell Jenny that he really misses her.
It's been a year since Sophie's death and as she looks down at her house, she feels the need for there to be a female presence in it.
Jenny visits Oliver and tells him she's leaving for New York. Sophie is present and tries to get Jenny to sit down, so she swirls around her a lot to make her dizzy. It works! Once she has sat in his house, Oliver tells Jenny that he misses Sophie but that when he slept with Tash he had wished it was Jenny instead. He reassures her that Sophie would be happy about them being together because she and Jenny were like sisters.
When they kiss, Sophie feels the life in Oliver return and it enables her to let go.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's a charming and creative story. The characters are interesting and it has a comforting emotional aspect.
Best scene in story:
The best scene is the ending, when Sophie is watching Jenny and Oliver. She is trying to get them to be together even though Jenny has reservations. When they finally kiss, it has the effect of allowing Sophie to break away and move on to the afterlife. Her mission is completed. She has been the angel watching over house number 33 all along.
Opinion about the main character:
Jenny is an intelligent and warm person. She is there for Oliver and Freddie after the tragedy of Sophie's death, and she never stops being loyal to Sophie, who was her best friend for many years.