Four Minutes to Save a Life by Anna Stuart – a contemporary look at life behind closed doors


Four minutes is not long to save or even change a life, but it is all Charlie Sparrow, the newest delivery driver with Turner’s Supermarkets, is meant to spend with each customer. Charlie is a man with a huge secret or two, but when he gets the orders to venture into Hope Street, he soon realises that he is going to be challenged in lots of ways. This is a book of enormous humanity and the real power of friendship. As Charlie enters houses with people’s mundane groceries, he also enters the lives of the lonely and isolated for a few brief moments a week. Not that even that insight is guaranteed, as the scheming Ryan is on the case. 


This is a skilfully written book about the big secrets a person can hide, but also how a small moment of conversation and genuine interest can make all the difference. It is a sad comment of how isolated people can be, but also how hope can help. Anna Stuart has created characters with real depth and integrity as well as sadness, and I found this a really uplifting book about how caring people can be with a little encouragement. I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to read and review a copy of this book.


The Prologue of this book shows Charlie making a bonfire of the things that he feels have contributed to his current sadness. His books and even passport are to be destroyed in order to make himself Charlie Sparrow – “a little dull, a little ordinary but, pray God, harmless”. Week One off the book shows him signing in as a delivery driver and meeting Bri, who is very welcoming. Soon he is heading out with a van of deliveries, nervously anticipating meeting the people on his list. Vikram is making curries in hope rather than anticipation. He gets excited by the visit, as he realises that his only other company is an elderly tortoise called Rickets now that his beloved wife is no longer there. The second visit is Ruth Madison, who is engaged in fixing a food processor. Not that she knows what she is going to do with it, but she feels compelled to fix things as it least it temporarily distracts her from the sense of loss that follows her. Charlie understands and indeed is interested in the jigsaws she also completes. Another visit is to Greg, as he consults his social media accounts and his “Inspirational” reputation. Following a terrible accident he has lived a changed life in an adapted house with few or no real visitors. His frequent trips have made him a star on twitter, but his bitterness strikes Charlie as he carefully delivers the groceries.


Despite the subject of this book, there is an underlying humour which emerges from the dialogue and other events which helps to maintain hope. I found Charlie an intriguing and fascinating character, whose life has obviously taken a difficult turn. His evident guilt is always threatening to overwhelm him, but he finds space to try to make a difference. I found the twists and revelations in this book moving and effective, and well within the range of reality. This is a really well written book that deserves to do really well, and I recommend it to those who enjoy contemporary insights into lives that many lead. 


I really enjoyed this book from local – to -me author Anna Stuart, which is not surprising as I have read  historical fiction novels, which include some stories of really strong women. As Joanna Courtney she has written the “Queens of the Conquest” series among others.   Despite my reading statistics being pretty impressive, I wish I had got round to reading all of her books *adds to list of potential Book club picks*