Published by Harlequin on June 1st 2017
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Women, Family Life, General, Literary
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With one wave of a hand, everything changes.
Meg is picking up her daughter Audrey from school, just like any other weekday afternoon. She sees her daughter’s friend Jack waiting to cross the road, so she stops and signals to him that it’s okay to cross. As the teen makes his way to the next curb, he is struck by an inattentive driver in the next lane. Meg knows that the teen would be okay if she hadn’t allowed him to cross in front of her. Consumed by guilt, she dedicates herself to helping Jack’s family at the expense of her own family.
Maybe we’re not the different after all, the two of us—I understand the need to keep a handle on things, to exude the image you desperately want people to see because the real one is scary and unpredictable and might take over if you give it a chance.
Meg’s life begins to fall apart. She can barely keep it together and makes huge mistakes in both her personal and professional life. After years of putting up a perfect front, she begins questioning her parenting skills and her marriage. She and her husband can’t seem to get on the same page and her well-behaved teenage daughter becomes moody and secretive. To make matters worse, Jack’s accident brings up unresolved guilt about an accident she was involved in when she was sixteen-years-old.
“If you can’t trust the ones you love, life will always feel harder than it needs to be.”
I didn’t feel Meg’s guilt as strongly as I felt her personal struggles. My favorite parts were the minor interactions between family members. I even liked the teenager in this book! Meg sees Audrey repeating her past mistakes and there’s a point when Meg realizes that her parents encountered many of the same problems that she’s going through. There’s so much she doesn’t know, but she doesn’t have to be alone in her struggles. I loved this sweet moment when she reaches out to her father:
“When does it get easier?”
“Being a parent, you mean?”
I nod and Dad laughs. “It never gets easier. Just gets less hard.”
I scowl. “Isn’t that the same thing?”
“No,” he says, giving me a wink. “Talk to me in another, oh, five years. You’ll understand better then.”
“I hope we all make it until then,” I say, giving him a wry smile. He bends down to kiss my cheek, and then we go back to the washing and drying, other of us silent with our own thoughts.
This was the first book I read after a long reading drought in the spring and it was exactly the type of book I needed: linear narrative, single character POV, and relatable drama/family dynamics. The thing that made me a little less enthusiastic about it is that Meg is very clear about what she’s feeling and she psychoanalyzes herself. There wasn’t much that I had to figure out for myself. To be fair, that was also what made it a good book for breaking a reading rut! I also felt like the story was happening before my eyes, so it was jarring when Meg referenced her future feelings. But overall, it was a solid story and the characters felt like real people. I liked how the author gave me just enough of an ending to satisfy me, but not so much of one that it felt too tidy. There was something comforting about this author’s style, so I’d be eager to read another one of her books.
“Fixing this is going to be twice as hard as breaking it, but this is as good a place as any to start.”
Despite our best intentions, sometimes we make mistakes. Those mistakes can result in terrible consequences. Sometimes we can never fix what we broke. Being thrown into unfamiliar territory builds new understandings between the characters. Meg learns that we’re all fighting the same battle. She sees firsthand how grief and guilt can cloud judgment and prevent a person from seeing past the present moment. In order to heal, she has to realize that it’s okay to forgive herself and others. She may have to learn to live with the “low hum of guilt,” but it doesn’t have to consume her.
A relevant quote from the movie version of Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls: “Most of us just get messily ever after… and that’s all right.”