Home is not a place, Not a smell, Not a face, But a space In your heart. -M. White
If I had to rate this book by no other criteria than this author's writing style I would have given it 5 stars. Staci Hart has a lyrical voice and I fell in love with it at the get-go.
I existed in the space between our hands, between the beating of our hearts, between the breaths we slowly sipped, savoring the moment I'd imagined for so long.
Unfortunately this isn't how it works but before you jump to conclusions...see how I rated it 4 stars? Let me explain.
The story is inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion. You have the hero who went to war and the engagement that was broken off when he left. When he returns he is a broken man.
"What is wrong with me? Why do I destroy the things I love?" "Because you don't know how to give or receive love anymore. You've been this way as long as I've known you."
Wade comes home to the news that his father is terminally ill. Being the eldest sibling he takes charge and takes over handling everything that comes with getting your father's things in order. Spending time with his dad is his top priority - unfortunately that comes with a catch - his best friend's sister whose mentor his father, a Lit-professor, is. She is his first love...and his last.
Elliot was only seventeen when Wade left her because she didn't marry him on the spot and leave with him. For two years she wrote him, everyday. Not a single response came. She has never forgotten her first love, who hurt her so profoundly that she couldn't imagine being with another man. On top of dealing with the devastating news that the person, who is more a father than her own, is going to die soon, she has to endure Wade's cold behavior.
I am not going to talk about the main characters just yet. I need to address a character who almost shone brighter than everyone else in this story. Rick is Wade's, Sophie's and Sadie's dad and seldom have I loved a secondary character as much as I did Rick. He was an inspiration and a picture of dignity, wisdom and kindness. The way he talked with his children and Elliot, his beautiful soul and quiet strength in the face of death...he was simply wonderful.
"You are loved and cared for, with or without me. So please, don't break or bend. Don't crumble and fall. Stand up tall and face the sun and remember me."
Elliot has a heart of gold, unfortunately she lets people use her and I couldn't get on board with her reasoning. She said that it wouldn't change anything if she spoke up, her sister (a despicable b*tch) and her father (that's where the sister has the bitchiness from...) wouldn't change. Her power was in the choice not to speak up.
But here's the thing— there's no point. Arguing will not change their behavior, and it helps no one, especially not me. I don't suffer very often because I don't let them hurt me. My being present is a choice. My enduring their judgment is a choice. My choice, and therein lies my power.
And this is where I had my issues. There is some twisted logic... The author had the option to use Elliot living with her sister and not wanting to end on the street as a pretty good reason for not speaking up...instead she used this non-reasoning. I am sorry to say but Elliot was for two thirds of the book indeed the doormat she said she wouldn't be. I was happy when she finally put her foot down. Still, she was a very likable character and I loved her connection with Rick and Sophie.
Wade was broken and I did understand why he first thought he wouldn't be good for Elliot. Alas, there was too much push and pull going on. Both of their inability to communicate and to take a risk got a little bit too much at some point. They were going in circles. When he finally manned up I let out a huge sigh of relief and I have to say in the last 15% of the story he made it up to Elliot and back into my good graces.
Why had I done this to her? Why did I keep hurting her when all I wanted was to love her? Why was I so broken? Why couldn't I do the right thing? Why couldn't I be who she deserves? The whys had been on me the whole time
Now that I got all the reservations out of the way I want to tell you that despite it all this was an extremely enjoyable read and I gobbled the story up because I wanted to know how it would end. I wanted to see Wade grovel and, hell, he did.
The family's grief was devastating and touched me deeply - I grieved along with them. The angst throughout the story was almost too much to bear. It is also peppered with beautiful poems. And let's not forget Rick, who almost outshone the main characters...I have no words for how beautiful his personality was.
"Don't cry." He reached for my face, and I leaned forward for him to cup my cheek. "I can't help it. What will we do without you?" And to that, he only had one answer, and he gave it to me with strength his body no longer possessed, but his soul always would. "Live."
As mentioned in my intro, Staci Hart's writing is pure poetry and there is no doubt that she has talent in spades. Her style evokes deep emotions and I can't wait to read more of this author's works.