*Copy provided in exchange for an honest review*
“Sometimes the greatest strength came from leaning on one another.”
Oh. My. Word.
What did I get myself into?! This is Val’s debut novel and if I would’ve known that this story was also going to open old wounds from MY own past… honestly, I don’t know what I would have done but I could have at least been prepared for the blow this book packed.
This story follows Caroline. She is part hairdresser, part actress, and part wife. She is married to Chandler, an incredible example of what a man, a husband, should be. My heart went out to him. He was so incredibly patient and loyal that it broke me to see him hurting so much. His unconditional love for Caroline was obvious in every part of him. But then, Caroline receives a letter that opens old wounds and she is left struggling to keep her marriage from falling apart.
This story is told in the present while cutting to flashbacks to her first love, Aidan. There were letters included in this book between Caroline and Aidan that made the story that much more powerful. The words in Aidan’s letters were always perfect. They made me smile so much and gripped my heart without mercy… They were so heart-warming that it hurt.
At times, I felt like part of the dialogue would’ve made more sense as internal thoughts. I also despised a certain character that we didn’t meet until almost the end. I had to fume for a while before getting back to the story. I wasn’t expecting that horrible plot twist and it made everything fall into place. Everything made perfect sense after the twist was revealed but it was all tainted.
I liked how everything wrapped up perfectly and I believed Caroline’s character development. It was raw and emotional. She had an amazing friend in Vangie. Vangie wasn’t afraid to tell Caroline what she needed to hear, even if it wasn’t what she wanted to hear. She helped Caroline grow into the person she should be and I respected her so much for it.
Personally, this story resonated with me to my core. There were so many similarities between me and the main character… it was impossible to not take things that happened between her and Aidan personally. I felt like Val pulled my experiences straight out of me and wrote this book about them.
I want to dedicate a section of this review to the last letter we read from Aidan… It was so unbelievably important to my rating of this book that it’s the least it deserves. It showed me how much I was invested in this story and how much I actually loved it. It made me think more than any book has ever done. I can’t tell you how many times I read that letter. I couldn’t move on with the story for a while. I read it over and over again, crying harder and harder with every reread. I read it so much that I can now recite it from the top of my head. Those words shattered me, to put it lightly. I don’t know if I can explain why this affected me so much but let’s just say that when I read that letter, it wasn’t Aidan speaking. In my mind, it was another guy from another story. My story. This book shed light to the biggest lie I’ve been telling myself for years and now I am left with a gaping heart and mind.
“Make yourself happy. That is what counts.”
(Cue in ugly sobs)