What Readers Are Saying About "The Finest Hat in the Whole World"


Stop the train! I forgot my copy of Colleen's book "The Finest Hat in the Whole World!"

From Goodreads

Leta McCurry

Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it

Although this story is set in the era from 1917 through 1937, there is only background impact of the volatile events of those years. However, the social and cultural nuances of this period is a perfect back drop. The fictional towns are somewhere in Northern California, perhaps in the San Joaquin Valley. Every character is so well drawn they are painted in a technicolor of words. Every character is humanly flawed and believable. We all know these people. In spite of all their warts and scars, the author skillfully seduces us into loving each of them.

Here is what is stunning about this work: It is not a mystery or a suspense (although there is an incident that haunts the main character, Del, about the death of his brother, Alex, that is never explained). There are no plot twists or big surprises. The author tells a pretty ordinary story of an ordinary family in a most extraordinary way as they deal with secrets, rage, lost dreams, hope, forgiveness and redemption. It is charming, sometimes funny, and reflective. For some reason it reminds me of The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.

If it were not for some editing and point of view issues, this would have been a five star read for me, but the story overcomes these issues in the telling. I loved this book and look forward to the next read from this author.



May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing

A charming Family Saga beginning 1917 and spanning twenty years. ‘Secrets are like moonlight obscured by the fog” the books begins and Des has many secrets. His 9 year old niece, Phena, is coming to live with him and his family because her own mother is ill. As the story unfolds we learn about the darker family dynamics of Des’s own family and that of Phena’s. It’s written in a gentle, old-fashioned style at the time of the first world war and prohibition. I say gentle in that it’s not fast-moving or plot-driven, it is the acutely observed characters that drive this: the feisty child Phena and her passage through adolescence to young adulthood, her touching relationship with Des, and the portrayal of the family dynamics. Des is a great character as are his family members and I especially loved little Eddie Quan and Joey. They are very memorable and stay with you after reading the book. The theme of the finest hat is a delightful one. I hear the author is an award-winning playwright too.



rated it it was amazing

This is one of my favorite novels of the year! Through this skillfully written historical novel, Colleen Parkinson gently weaves the reader through the ups and downs of living through WWI, flu pandemic, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. Her characters are real, not perfect, vulnerable human beings, who wish to be loved even with their imperfections.

From Facebook

Sandra Reed "The absolute BEST READ I've had in quite sometime. I thoroughly enjoyed reading from the first paragraph to the last sentence. I couldn't wait to get home in the evening after work and get back to the chapter I left the night before. A great book! I sure hope there will be a sequel following the rest of the family.....? you never know?"


Joel Dennstedt  "I am so glad to see others finding and enjoying your book. As a professional reviewer, I rated it my 2nd favorite book this past year out of 75 reviews."


Pattie Lou Ross  "This book has wonderful characters and a great story...its one of those books you just can't put down!!!"


Ginger Preisler Nitterhouse  "Spent weekend reading this...I loved it. Will certainly recommend this to my reading buddies. Thanks for a wonderfully written book."


Charlie Gregor "Ms Parkinson's writing has a way of drawing the reader in and making the book a true page turner."


Chantelle Atkins  "I read this book a few months ago but I still think about it now! I would really love a prequel or sequel as I so fell in love with the characters. A genuinely heartrending and endearing family saga - something to curl up with and get sucked into!"


Here are some more posts from Facebook readers:


Ginger Nitterhouse Spent weekend reading this...I loved it. Will certainly recommend this to my reading buddies. Thanks for a wonderfully written book.


Nancy Heilman I had just downloaded this on my kindle this week, and am looking forward to the read. It had great reviews.


Patricia Biltoft I loved the book. A good story with real characters.


Sue Brace Finally a clean, noble novel.


Kathy Calvert I’m reading it now, and I love it!!


Linda Gaines Burke Loved this book! Thank you, Thank you for this labor of love


Ruth Goudreau Possanza Loved this book....full of heart ❤️


Vilicia Woolard Amen


Susan Hundley Beautiful


Bonnie Hollier I am almost through reading this book. Love it. Had to take a break, because I was crying too much. I have enjoyed everything about it!  I connected with these characters in a short time, and looked forward to reading some more. I loved Des as if he was my brother, and learned to love Phena and Eddie as time went on... a wonderful, loving book.


 Dora Marie Duarte Beautiful


Doris Morris Very good


Gloria Hart Mangum Reading this now...great so far!!



Editorial Review


Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

Only the finest writers can accomplish what Colleen A. Parkinson does in her fascinating historical novel, The Finest Hat in the Whole World. Sometimes, rarely, a reader feels overwhelmingly privileged to read just such a book. To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind. And there is a reassuring resonance with this major classic to be found in Ms. Parkinson's book - both in the utterly endearing relationship between the rebellious, once-abused Phena and her devoted Uncle Des with whom she lives, having been abandoned by her stoically indifferent father and her abusive, mentally ill mother - and also in the rarefied atmosphere of its moralistic message.

The year is 1917, the United States is just about to enter the devastating First World War, and Des - who is a bar owner in small town USA - is too old at thirty to be drafted. Due to a situation markedly more complex than it initially seems, 9-year-old Phena is given into the custody of Des. She too is more complex than she at first appears.Their relationship is nothing but complex, but it is based clearly on devotion and adoration, which becomes a primary driving force behind the deep, compelling, twenty-year-long plot development in this masterpiece of writing. Remarkably, even the most difficult plot elements are handled with immeasurable grace and credibility.

Every character in Colleen A. Parkinson's The Finest Hat in the Whole World is finely drawn and made absolutely real and psychologically credible and intriguing, for the author often elicits individual personality quirks out of experiences subconsciously endured because they happened so long ago, sometimes leaving subtle emotional scars that linger into adulthood. However, what elevates her writing into the realm of truly great fiction - award-winning fiction - is Ms.Parkinson's flawless ability to evoke a vivid sense of presence through her stunning use of lean but gorgeous prose, crafted as meticulously as one might prune and nurture a perfectly-attended-to, thoroughly stunning victory garden ... or a daughter.



5.0 out of 5 stars   Heartwarming Family Drama

February 6, 2018

Format: Kindle Edition
The Finest Hat In The Whole world is a story to snuggle up with. It's not fast-paced, it's not full of twists and turns and oh-my-gosh moments, but instead, it provides a slow and steady burn, a warmth of recognition as you get to know the characters and a growing sense of familiarity as you become engrossed in their lives. This is the story of Des, a bartender who lives at home with his mother, and Phena, his 9-year-old niece. The story spans their lives from 1917 into the Depression era and as well as being greatly character driven, this is a retelling of history through the eyes of ordinary American people. I found it fascinating and it felt like watching an old film. It was impossible not to fall for both Des and Phena from the start. Des takes Phena in when her own family rejects her. A feisty, damaged, confused little girl, Phena is a brilliant character throughout the book and the love between them is heartwarming. A family saga, this story unfolds across the years, as the characters experience death and loss, family feuds and resentments, poverty and wealth, good fortune and bad. I found this a truly interesting, emotional and soothing read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a character-driven historical family drama.
Theodore J. Cohen

5.0 out of 5 stars

Wonderful insight into human nature...

February 4, 2018

Format: Kindle Edition


As an author, I enjoyed this book on a completely different level: looking at how Colleen Parkinson developed the characters she had created and the world they inhabited.

First and foremost, of course, is the young woman of age nine, Phena, who, as the book opens learns she is to be sent to her father's brother's home for an indeterminate period of time. As the story unfolds, we learn a lot about this girl and the others in her and her extended family--about their secrets and the dangers that lurk about (especially in Phena's home) and why Phena not only is being sent away but also, why it's truly better that she has been.

Parkinson's ability to create believable, flawed human beings is a gift she willing shares with us. What a joy it is to read her well-crafted prose, be introduced to, and come to know, the characters in this drama, and watch as each, in turn, plays their role in this heartbreaking story that could only have taken place in rural America between the beginning of WWI to the mid-1930s. For it's studies in human nature alone, you will not be able to put his book down. A gem of a book!

Five STARS all the way.
linda burke
September 8, 2018
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
5.0 out of 5 stars

By Amazon Customer on December 8, 2015

Format: Paperback

This is a wonderful story that I could not put down. I hated for it to end. It was a realistic story about a family with all of its flaws and goodness. It demonstrated hope and perseverance and the challenges and rewards of raising a child while dealing with our own demons. Excellent portrayal of this family of characters. It left me feeling good and somewhat introspective.


4.0 out of 5 stars

By Michelle M on August 18, 2016

Format: Paperback

It took me a long time to finish this book mainly because I didn't have the Kindle edition but the actual book. I found it surprisingly engaging and interesting. It actually reminded me of Anne of Green Gables, which I loved as a child. It is the story of a spirited young girl who comes to live with her uncle. The book not only takes you through her coming of age but the slow maturing of her uncles and family. There is a welcome depth of character; no one's a saint in this book and least of all Phena, its heroine. It reminds you that who we are today is not necessarily who we will be tomorrow. A beautiful family saga about struggle and perseverance and love.


5.0 out of 5 stars I totally enjoyed this book

By Charles J. Gregor on January 27, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition

I totally enjoyed this book. A story of great dramatic sweep and reflection, the author displays her own bright, inspirational way of taking this family drama and infusing it with her singular, unique style.
This is an extremely well conceived and well-crafted work. I enjoyed the pacing of the story and the subtle humor throughout. The characters are beautifully and intimately drawn, never stale or predictable. I was rooting for them through their challenges, heartbreak and triumphs. I also enjoyed the many musical references that helped bind the historical settings of the times and the subsequent pathos of this novel.
Remarkably well done! Ms. Parkinson is definitely an author to keep your eye on.


4.0 out of 5 stars A delightful read

By Pamela C Blake on April 13, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition

A heartfelt story about a California family in the early part of the twentieth century, and the small child who unexpectedly comes to live with them. At first the little girl brings them great challenges and then, redemption. Ms. Parkinson is a wonderful writer and a fine story teller.
She moves through the family's joys and their many trials with great heart and a sly sense of humor. I look forward to more from her!


5.0 out of 5 stars Twenty years of a families life.

By Steven F. Copelin on February 29, 2016

Format: Paperback

I loved this book. The era in which it took place intrigues me. I love the history and the lives of this family, reminds me of my own. I loved the story. It made me laugh, cry and made me feel I was there.
It was a good read. Colleen Parkinson is a great story teller. Can't wait for her next book.
Give it try; you won't be disappointed.


5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing!

By Janice Tinto on May 10, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition

Truly a family story filled with love, hardship and challenges. There is great character development with all the family members. The writing is wonderful, very visual, and flows along smoothly, keeping your interest to the end. I will be looking forward to more of Colleen's novels.


4.0 out of 5 stars The characters become people you like and look forward to learning more about

By Murphy on April 28, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition

An engaging read. The characters become people you like and look forward to learning more about.


5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Story

By Amazon Customer on January 2, 2016

Format: Paperback

Colleen Parkinson has a unique flare in telling her story about The Finest Hat in the Whole World. It captured my interest from the very beginning. It is an emotional account of hidden feelings that kept me intrigued through each chapter with surprises. I could hardly wait to find out how this story ended. I thought it was a very enjoyable read.


5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book!!!

By Zengirl on January 27, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

A wonderful story, believable characters set in an interesting era. I loved this book!