Have You Noticed Anything Different About My Book Reviews?

Hello! I’m constantly trying to tweak the reviews that I post here so they can be more enjoyable for everyone to read, and if you haven’t noticed yet, I’ve added but another new feature to my book reviews! I will now be including a list of “sensitive subjects” before I dive into my thoughts on the book. They’re similar to a trigger warning, yet I’m not calling them triggers for a reason.

If you don’t know what a trigger is, let me explain. A trigger is any sort of sensation (sight, sound, smell, even taste) that can vividly remind a person of a traumatic event they experienced. Common examples of this are people who have experienced severe sexual assault or physical violence. Triggers should be taken seriously, as they can often lead to violence flashbacks and incredibly negative emotions. All of the warnings I include before the review begins are not that dire; most of them are actually rather just, as it’s included in the title, “sensitive subjects.” These are topics that have the possibility to make anyone uncomfortable, or at the very least, are controversial conversation in our society.

Now comes the part where you come in. If you happen to have read a book that I’m reviewing and notice some discrepancies in my list of “sensitive subjects” (either I’ve missed one or included one that you don’t agree with), do not hesitate to message me here, or comment on the post itself. Also, if you’re curious as to how extensively a specific topic is written about in the book, or if there’s just one particular scene they need to stay away from, again, don’t hesitate to contact me for more information.

Some might consider this catering to the new age of sensitive snowflakes in our politically correct day in age. But I think to fully enjoy a book, you need to be completely comfortable immersing yourself within its plot, and it’s hard to do that if you’re straddled by the uncertainty of possible triggers/sensitive topics. Better safe than sorry when investing your time into a book!

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The Book of Essie: Book Review

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir published in 2018.

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“Esther Ann Hicks—Essie—is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She’s grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family’s fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie’s mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show’s producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia’s? Or do they try to arrange a marriage—and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media—through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell—Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?”

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The Book of Essie is like a crossover between the Kardashian’s and Little House on the Prairie, and I loved every second of it.

Six for Hicks is a reality show which follows the die-hard religious lifestyle of the Hicks family. All is well in paradise until Essie, the youngest of the many children, gets pregnant. Her overbearing mother and the producers of the show weigh their options to avoid a media disaster: should she put the baby up for adoption? Try and pass it as her mothers’ child? Abortion? Marry Essie off before the kid is born? The last option is deemed the best, so they begin to search for a suitable husband for seventeen-year-old Essie. Roarke Richards is chosen and given a significant amount of money for going along with the very publicized sham wedding. The book is written in the altering perspectives of Essie, Roarke and Liberty, who is a struggling reporter with a dark history of her own. As the story unfolds we learn that all three of our main characters have secrets that they’re not willing to bring to the light just yet. Also, the most pressing question for us readers is: how did Essie get pregnant?

This was such a quick and easy read, I finished it faster than most books I’ve read. It was fast-paced yet I didn’t feel like the story was racing by at a speed I couldn’t handle. This is the type of book that jumps right into the main plot, which I appreciate very much (not a big fan of novels that dawdle with a pointless backstory for a hundred pages). In fact, the first few lines throw us right in the deep end by saying,

“On the day I turn seventeen, there is a meeting to decide whether I should have the baby or if sneaking me to a clinic for an abortion is worth the PR risk. I am not invited, which is just as well since my being there might imply that I have some choice in the matter and I know that I have none.”

The tone for the rest of the book is set in these two simple lines. Beyond these sentences, the book does not waste time getting down to the action involving the marriage. The only thing that wasn’t addressed right away was the reasoning behind Essie’s pregnancy, and this builds some terrific suspense for when it is revealed.

I really enjoyed most of the presence of the character, and even if I didn’t like them personally, I could appreciate them from a literary point of view. Essie’s mother Celia, for example, while unlikeable, was placed in the story for a specific reason and Weir wrote her well into that role. Another aspect I especially liked was the relationship between Essie and Roarke. They had a comfortable chemistry build on the foundation that they both had secrets they’re desperate to hide, but even more desperate to share with someone else to alleviate the weight on their shoulders. Their relationship was like a breath of fresh air in the midst of a traumatic atmosphere and the friendship they end up creating in enviable for any young person.

I think Weir handled some touché subjects with ease, such as rape, incest, child molestation, and homophobia. In excess, these topics can grow to be unbearable to read about, but here the author sprinkled in little nuggets of hope and human decency that gave me the motivation to read on. It was realistic and yet also theatrical, given the nature of Essie’s life.

The Book of Essie gave an insightful look into the often-time hypocritical world of staunch evangelicals, especially those that advertise their picture perfect lifestyles. How deep down, it’s just a hoax to judge people that don’t fit your personal ideals. While this was portrayed well, I wish there was more detail surrounding the phenomenon that is reality television. For example, why was the American public so fixated on watching the Hicks’ every move? And do they really believe that everything they’re seeing is reality? These would be interesting questions to explore, especially in the age of the Kardashians and Jersey Shore, so the fact that these ideas were only hinted upon slightly disappointed me.

There will be spoilers in the next paragraph, so read on with caution.

The ending was satisfying and concise. It was a happy finale for our protagonists which warmed my heart after rooting for them for so long, and all loose ends were tied together quite nicely. The only thing that was missing for me was the aftermath of Essie telling the public she was raped. As we saw in the novel Beartown (and frankly, as we see all the time in real life), there are repercussions for women who come forward about rape. This impact on Essie wasn’t really discussed, at least not in-depth. Since Essie has such a unique outlook on the world, I would have loved to have seen this experience from her perspective.

The Book of Essie was a cleverly written coming of age book with likeable characters and emotional topics. I had the honour of following Esther Hicks on a one in a million journey through a life that she didn’t necessarily wish for, but made the best of when it came her way. I think most young girls should aspire to be like Essie (maybe not the pregnancy part, but definitely everything else in between).

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A Place for Us: Book Review

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza published in 2018.

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“A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from. In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family’s past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent’s faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.”

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This is the first book released under Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, and I don’t think she could have chosen a better debut novel.

This book is divided into four parts. The first part opens up with the wedding of Haida, Layla and Rafiq’s oldest child. Immediately there is tension between the family due to Amar, the youngest in the family, making an appearance after running away three years prior. The second, and by far longest, part takes us back and explains exactly why Amar left, which has a lot to do with his relationship with his strict father. The third part goes back to Haida’s wedding, the reader now having the knowledge of everything that’s happened in the past. Finally, the fourth and in my opinion, the best part, we explore all the past stories that were told in the prior parts of the novel from the fathers perspective. Here, we learn that the hardened exterior that his children witnessed throughout their childhood may have just been a façade for the emotions that he was unsure of how to handle.

The majority of books that I read are very plot centred, and when I say that I mean my main motivation to continue reading is to find out how the plot is going to develop. A Place for Us is a rare exception where I continued reading solely for the characters and how they would continue to develop. I had a genuine interest in all of their lives and really wanted the best for them, almost as if I knew them in real life. Whether you yourself can strongly relate to the characters, each member of the family is portrayed so flawlessly imperfect in such a realistic and authentic manner that you’ll find yourself immensely caring for them.

The novel started off a bit slow for my liking, yet others might view this as a leisurely plot. As I mentioned above part two was the longest, since it covered the better part of the family’s troubles. Yet I felt that some parts dragged on and could have benefited from a bit of light editing. The pace did pick up significantly around part three when family secrets were revealed and past endeavours were exposed. Another small detail that irked me was the transitioning between perspectives so freely. The main point of views switched between Hadia, Amar and Layla, also altering between different periods of their life. Since it was not apparently clear when the POV’s were switching, I was confused and found myself backtracking to figure out whose perspective I was witnessing the story from. These are minor complaints though that can be worked through quite easily.

Mirza, despite being so young, possesses such a unique wisdom and gracefulness about family, religion and culture. Even better, she managed to masterfully weave these together to create the heartbreakingly real narrative of a modern Muslim family living in America. She touches upon the impact of 9/11 as well as the more recent political glutton that is President Trump. The pressures of devoting yourself to religion is what creates the gap between Amar and his father, something I’m sure must be common nowadays. Both the beautiful and cruel aspects of faith are highlighted in this timeless story.

Part four was by far my favourite. Anyone knows that I’m a sucker for the character trope of the strict and hardened authority figure concealing their true emotions, mainly because they don’t know how to express their true emotions. This Rafiq in a nutshell. Throughout the entire novel, the reader saw him through the lens of his children and wife as the uncompromising leader of the family, but part four allows us a glimpse into his mind. Here, we see him struggling to find a balance between his love of Islam and the love of his family, not to mention his almost palpable desperation to connect with his estranged son. It was beautifully written and the perfect way to end this novel.

A Place for Us has the potential to translate so well into a diverse array of cultures and religions. The raw emotions portrayed by Mirza are applicable to each and every one of us. If you’re still unsure about picking up this book, I’ll endorse it for the same reason that I recommended The Hate U Give; if you can’t find something to relate to in this, you’ll definitely find something that you can learn from it.

The Perfect Mother: Book Review

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy published in 2018.

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“They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time. When the women go out for drinks at a hip neighborhood bar, they’re looking for a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed.”

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This is both the best and the worst book for a mother to read.

The May Mother’s are a group of women who gave birth to their children in the same month of May. They meet to discuss their new daunting roles of mothers and exchange advice on their newborns. The regular members are Francie, Nell, Colette, Token (given this nickname because he’s the “token male” of the group) and finally, the mysterious and beautiful Winnie Ross. Yet when the group convinces Winnie to go against her better judgement and join them for a night of drinks, her son Midas is taken from his crib. The police are proving to be incompetent in solving this case, and soon the whole country has an opinion about the infant abduction. Was it an act of terrorism? Revenge from an old stalker of Winnie’s? Or maybe Winnie has something to do with this herself? Even besides the detail of who did this, how irresponsible was it of this new mother to leave her newborn at home to go drinking? As the press preoccupies themselves by pointing fingers and placing blame, the police stray further away from finding Midas, so one of the May Mother’s stars to take things into her own hands. Secrets are revealed, people are killed, and tensions are high on the search for baby Midas.

The characterization was definitely not ideal for me. It took a while for all the main characters to gain a sense of individuality and a strong personality. I kept getting all of their jobs, husbands and kids confused. Since they’re all in similar situations (new, nervous mothers), it’s difficult to distinguish between Francie, Nell and Colette. Eventually, I did get them sorted out, but I attribute that mainly to time. If you read about any character for long enough, you’re bound to remember certain things about them, even if they aren’t particularly memorable.

This is labelled as a thriller, but I didn’t really find it that thrilling for the majority of the novel. I felt as if it sort of plateaued for most of it, just an endless search for Midas with very few major twists and turns or any sort of heavy action scenes. I kept waiting for some minor peaks of action to spice up the story, yet the only bit of noteworthy action was the final reveal at the end. Then it was approximately forty pages of intense drama with an abrupt happyish ending.

Speaking of the big twist, I wasn’t too impressed by it. Was I surprised by the reveal of what happened to baby Midas? Somewhat. Was I absolutely blown away by it? Not really. Actually, when I was telling my dad about the general plot of the novel, he guessed part of the ending so you can interpret that any way you’d like. My exact thoughts while taking in the ending was, “Oh, that’s it?” Also, it left some unanswered questions, which is quite annoying, especially in a thriller/mystery novel that dedicates about two hundred pages to creating questions that need answers.

I will say it did have an interesting commentary on modern motherhood that was intriguing to read, even as someone who isn’t a mother. The external pressure to be the perfect mother (hence the title) is presented with a contemporary flair with hints of traditional doubt. It ranges from a parenting website sending daily “mommy advice” of how the perfect baby should be acting, to the underlying disdain of using formula milk versus breast milk. Reading this book is just a constant reminder that trying to keep a little human alive is hard enough without a world of strangers telling you that you’re doing it wrong, so we should appreciate the work that mother’s do.

I heard some people describe this book as “disturbing”, but to me, that’s a bit of an ambitious adjective for The Perfect Mother. Besides the whole plot point of a newborn being kidnapped, there are very few scenes that I would describe as disturbing. Maybe it’s because I’m adventurous when it comes to potentially unsettling books (check out my review for Girls Burn Brighter—that one was a doozy), but this definitely was not the most disturbing book I’ve ever read, if anything I found it rather tame.

Molloy has achieved writing a very average book. All the characters, plot and writing style are just fine to say the most. If you’re looking for a novel to introduce yourself to the thriller genre that has little to arguably no disturbing scenes, this would be a good one to check out. Yet if you have a strong stomach and are searching for something with a bit more bang for your buck, it might be worth skipping this one.

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Surprise Me: Book Review

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella published in 2018.

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“After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, and beautiful twin girls, and they communicate so seamlessly they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years…and panic sets in. They decide to bring surprises into their marriage to keep it fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me—from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to sexy photo shoots—mishaps arise, with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, surprises turn to shocking truths. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other at all.

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This book stayed true to its name because it definitely surprised me.

The reader follows Sylvie as she navigates through her picture-perfect life with her husband Dan and two young children. This is until they get the news that they’re going to live for another sixty-eight years, which is a dauntingly long time to be married to one person. To fix this dilemma, Sylvie starts to implement a plan to regularly surprise her spouse, and he to do the same towards her. After one momentous surprise, her husband Dan starts to stray away from her, both physically and emotionally. The only logical explanation Sylvie can think of is that he’s having an affair with an old flame. It also doesn’t help that there’s tension between Dan and her parents, even though her father died in a car accident years before. Sylvie is convinced that Dan is jealous of the abundant charm and wealth that her father possessed. As the gap in their relationship grows, Sylvie is driven to discover a family secret that she did not see coming.

Unfortunately, this book did not start off on the right foot for me. I did not like the characters at the beginning, specifically the main character Sylvie. I found her annoying and spoiled, the kind of person I would try to avoid in my real life. I mean, what grown adult calls their parents “Mummy and Daddy”? (Is it a British thing?) Either way, I found myself raising my brows and rolling my eyes that Sylvie’s mentality for most of the novel.

So because the main character has all these qualities, it spills over into the actual narrative of the book, since it’s written from her perspective. The writing style sort of sounded like a thirty-something-year-old trying to sound younger while gossiping over a wine lunch. This sort of quirky-ness could be charming for a bit, but for me, it grew old quickly. Maybe I’m just not the target demographic though, which I can accept.

Now I do understand that the character was created to be imperfect for the sake of the plot, because (without spoiling anything) she goes through somewhat of an epiphany near the end when secrets are revealed. After this breakthrough, her personality does a 180 turn and it’s almost as if a new person is narrating our story. The character development in Sylvie was ideal because her eyes were opened to becoming the best version of herself that she can be, which, granted, wouldn’t be possible if she hadn’t started out annoying and spoiled. It’s just that it took almost three hundred and fifty pages for the secret to be revealed that caused her big change in attitude, and I was getting a bit impatient.

Regarding her father, Kinsella made it quite obvious that something was going to happen with him. There are countless times throughout the book that it’s mentioned, either in dialogue or Sylvie’s inner narrative, how absolutely spectacular, amazing, wonderful, beyond perfect he was. Every single positive adjective in the English language was used to describe Sylvie’s late father, so you don’t have to be a literary genius to know that Kinsella wasn’t being subtle when setting up a future plot point revolving around her father. That being said, she did throw some curveballs when the actual secrets were revealed, so that was a delightful way to shake up the story.

The last one hundred pages or so was definitely an improvement from the first three hundred, as I eluded to above with Sylvie’s character development. Not only did I warm up to the characters, but the theme became much more solidified. I quite enjoyed the theme of focusing on the present and it was delivered really well near the end. Kinsella wrapped up everything in this book nice and neatly.

Surprise Me tricks you into thinking it’s a quirky love story of a happy couple trying to spark up some excitement in their marriage. Problems slowly start to trickle in though, starting off with a light suspicion of infidelity, to something a bit more serious. Sadly, for me, it took too long for this build-up to go anywhere substantial. Even though the character development was well done, it didn’t make up for the lack of plot development until the end. If you’re looking for a lighthearted, summer read that will inspire you to live in the present (but also want to skip to the future of the book when the plot becomes relevant) consider picking up a copy of Surprise Me.

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Beartown: Book Review

Beartown by Fredrik Backman published in 2017.

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“People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.”

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This novel is the physical embodiment of this vine.

Beartown is the name of a small community that revolves around hockey. The junior boy’s upcoming hockey finals are not only a source of pride and joy but future economic stability. So the weight of an entire town of individuals is on the shoulders of a group of seventeen-year-old hockey playersno pressure though. The star of the junior team is Kevin Erdahl, a hockey phenomenon that is headed straight for the big leagues. This is all until he rapes fifteen-year-old Maya at a party. Oh yeah, to make things worse, Maya is the daughter of the general manager of the hockey club Kevin plays at. The reader watches this town fall apart in the name of the very sport that they claimed brought them together

A hallmark of a good book for me is a great opening line, and Beartown definitely provided this,

“Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there”

Not only does this provide an element of anticipation and motivation to keep reading, but I love how in the last line Backman uses the word “we”, adding a sense of inclusion, almost like the readers are part of the story. My attention was immediately grabbed and made me excited to continue with this story.

I usually talk about characters, but there are so many people in this book that there really isn’t a main character. Normally this might be confusing and scattered, but in this case, it made the novel more unique since the town itself is taking the role of the protagonist. The citizens within Beartown are so intertwined in each other’s stories that it transcends one single character. The town itself has a heart of its own and therefore leads most of the plot.

I should probably also include a trigger warning for this book. For a book primarily about hockey, it covers some heavy topics such as homophobia and as I mentioned above, rape. Backman handles both topics gracefully though, so if you do have a history with either of these subjects, it still may be worth approaching this book with heightened caution.

For example, there’s an eloquently written line about rape trauma that caught my attention,

“For the perpetrator, rape lasts just a matter of minutes. For the victim, it never stops.”

As if the actual act of rape wasn’t enough, the aftermath was almost as horrifying. Not only do people turn against Maya, but they view Kevin as the victim. I could go on and on about the many ways this book made my blood boil, from people accusing her of lying, to blaming her for everything, and even people consoling his parents. It was the toxic masculinity and unwavering loyalty that had these town folks idolizing a teenage boy simply because he was good on the ice. In their eyes, he could do no wrong, which is extremely frustrating to witness. I found myself physically clenching my fists in angry, and even had to take a break from it so I wouldn’t get myself too worked up.

The reason I was getting so upset is because of how real this situation is. Backman perfectly captured the language people use when discussing rape. I was specifically reminded of the Brock Turner case, and many other situations like this that probably go without a trial. It’s a tragic look into the lives of many women (and men) who are the victims of rape.

Now I will say the story did seem to drag in some places. The actual climatic incident didn’t happen until almost 200 pages in, and even beyond that new characters and plot points were being introduced. The first one hundred pages or so was leading up to the semifinals (the lead up to the actual finals didn’t last nearly as long). So put plainly, some parts of this could benefit from a bit of mild editing, but overall I’m not complaining.

The ending was bittersweet, and that’s the best way I can put it without spoiling anything. I probably wouldn’t have written it any differently; Backman even used the story technique of writing about the characters life ten years in the future. This is a particularly interesting move since he has another novel published called Us Against You, which is the continued story of the Beartown community after the incident. The aspect I love most about this is that nobody has to pick up his sequel for this story to be finished, but it’s the choice of the reader if they want more. You won’t be losing anything from the original book if you choose not to read the second. I love the freedom Backman allows his readers, and because of that, I’ll definitely be picking up a copy of Us Against You.

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How to Walk Away: Book Review

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center published in 2018.

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“Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her; a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment. In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that life might find her in the last place she would ever expect.”

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This might be my favourite title for a book because it represents the story in both a physical and emotional way.

The novel is from the point of view of Margaret, a young woman who has her entire future mapped out. In a grand gesture to propose, her boyfriend practically forces her to fly in the plane that he’s piloting (even though she had a fear of flying). He ends up crashing the plane on landing, and while he walks away without a scratch, she is left is third-degree burns on her neck and paralyzed from the knees down. Margaret is now faced with a totally different future than she expected, and the reader follows her through conflicting emotions of despair and hope.

First thing I usually touch on in these reviews is characters, so let’s discuss. The voice of Margaret is very powerful yet relatable. She has this dry sense of humour that resonates well with me, yet it also leads to the unavoidable dark thoughts one might have if they were in her place. I’m so glad that it didn’t have the sickeningly inspiring commentary that a lot of tragic stories have, as Margaret’s character told it as it is. It’s awful. It’s something that no one would ever wish to go through, no matter how “wise” or “enlightened” you come out on the other side. It’s like most things terrible things in life when it happens, you just deal with it and move on best you can.

Speaking of characters, Center had this incredible ability to flip my feelings about a character, specifically Margaret’s mother, Linda. She is made out to be the villain at first, yet it’s later her vulnerable side is revealed through exposing her past faults. I went from hating her presence to wanting to comfort her, a giant leap for a side character in a grander story. I was thoroughly impressed.

Prefacing the novel, Center opened her acknowledgments by saying that she had to do massive amounts of research for this book, and you can definitely tell by the events that take place. Like I mentioned before, it’s realistic in the mix of positive and negative emotions. It’s the epitome of the saying “You don’t know what you have until you lose it.” I caught myself wiggling my toes a lot while reading this, and thinking of all the times I’ve used my legs, and all the times I will use my legs in the future. If there’s ever a book to read that will put you in your place and allow you to feel grateful, it’s How to Walk Away.

There was a scene that reminded me of one of my favourite books, The Catcher in the Rye. I have no idea if this minimal connection was intentional, but I noticed it and it warmed by heart. For those of who have never read The Catcher in the Rye, the main character Holden makes an observation about time while visiting the Museum of Natural History. He remarks that every time he visits it, he’s changed in some kind of way as a person, yet the museum stays the same. There’s a scene in this book where Margaret feels a remarkably similar feeling about her grandparent’s cabin for the first time after the accident,

“Being back here was exactly as bad as I’d feared. Everything was the same as it had been since my grandparents had bought the place in the sixties. The screen porch door still squeaked and slapped. The gopher hole by the back steps hadn’t moved. The pear trees my grandmother had planted still rustled in the breeze.

The only thing different was me.”

I love this scene for more than just its relation to Holden, but for its relevance in everyone’s live. We all have a place like Holden’s museum or Margaret’s cabin.

A major aspect of the story I didn’t mention in my personal summary was that Margaret ends up falling in love with her physical therapist, Ian. Their journey of healing by each other’s side is heart wrenching and genuine. Though my favourite part is that the story did not revolve around this romance, it was simply another aspect of Margaret’s story. This story had so much more to it; identity, estranged families, rocky recoveries and more. He is not the prince that comes to save her, but just someone that helped her save herself. I will admit, some scenes with him were a bit too cheesy for my taste, such as on the boat near the end, but I’ll also say that this story is so bleakly realistic that maybe Margaret deserved a few fairytale moments. Some parts near the end even made me cry a little bit.

I want to be best friends with Margaret and her sister Kitty. I was itching to help them and for them to help me at the same time. In fact, I feel like I do know these characters as if I just sat down with Margaret for an afternoon and she told me her life story. I think everyone should immerse themselves in her world and try and learn a little from her. The heartbreak and desperation were almost palpable, yet the hope that ultimately founds its way to Margaret is awe-inspiring to the extreme and definitely worth the read for anyone who can get their hands on this book.

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