There’s a proverb that says, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” This is the truly beautiful story of a young woman’s journey from egocentricity to self-awareness, from having regard only for herself to being willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of another human being. There is also a sublimely heart-melting love story embedded in the midst of one of the most moving, relevant and attention-worthy plotlines I’ve had the pleasure of reading of late. Nothing about this book is cliché, been-done-before or mundane. This is an emotional roller-coaster that will take you out of your usual literary comfort zone, grip you and keep you at the edge of your seat, begging for more.
Sophie Price is perfect. Her face is perfect. Her body is perfect. Everything in her life appears to be perfect. Her wealthy but neglectful parents have given her the type of lifestyle where everything has always been served to her on a silver platter, with no responsibilities or consequences for her actions. She is the ‘Queen Bee’ of her little click of entitled kids, wanting for nothing and taking it all unapologetically. She is selfish, self-centred, an awful friend who uses and discards people only to feed her starving ego. But when Sophie is alone, a scared and insecure little girl emerges at times, one that believes that her beautiful features hide only ugliness inside her. She detests that weakness in her, always striving not to show any real emotions in front of people, hoping no one would ever notice how meaningless her life really is.
“I stood in front of the mirror and took a good hard look. I was as bare as I could make myself, no makeup with wet, stringy hair. I hated to look at myself in this state. I didn’t feel real. I felt too exposed and that made me exceedingly nervous, but I made myself look that morning. I memorized that girl. That girl was the real me. Frightened. Worthless. A terrible friend. Terrible daughter. Well educated but so limited in ideas worth having. Beautiful yet repulsive…”
After indulging in a life of debauchery and vice, life finally catches up with Sophie, turning her entire existence upside down and throwing her in the midst of Africa to serve a six-month sentence at Masego, a struggling orphanage for children affected by war and violence. It is there that she meets Ian/Dingane, a young man who appears to only see the ‘ugly Sophie’ in her, one that does not belong or deserve to be at a place like Masego and one who would never make it there. For the first time in her privileged life, Sophie’s looks or possessions are not what define her. She is forced to dig deep inside her shallow soul for infinite amounts of courage, compassion and love for the sake of the innocents that fulfill her days with unconditional trust and affection. Through those children, Sophie learns to appreciate the gift of life, first and foremost, and to never again take what is given to her for granted.
“… what is there to be joyful about?”
“Life, Sophie. They still live. They breathe, they love each other, they find joy in the world around them for no other reason than because they are children. They are resilient. They will always rise above. Always. It is a curious facet of the innocent young.”
Her relationship with Ian changes as well, their physical attraction continuously growing and the trust between them building a firm bond between them. Through Ian’s eyes, Sophie sees the person she wishes to become. He teaches her to draw strength from even the most painful of emotions, to see beauty in the small things in life and to love herself for her heart, not her appearance.
“Fear, sadness. They’re not weaknesses. They are overpowering, defining emotions. They make you human, Sophie.”
The connection between Ian and Sophie grows against all odds, two kindred spirits finding each other and desperately hanging onto one another in a dangerous world marred by political turmoil and instability, where survival and protection of those who cannot protect themselves becomes their first and only priority. Their love story develops gently and tastefully. Against a horrific backdrop of some of the worst sins that human nature is known to be responsible for, Sophie finally learns to love – love herself, love those who show her kindness, love those who deserve kindness from her. She also learns to love a man, deeply, openly and above all, selflessly.
“Men wanted me. They all did, however briefly, but none of them wanted to keep me. That’s what I needed. I needed to be owned, loved. But not by a man. I knew then that I never needed to be kept by a man. What I needed was to love myself, to want to keep myself around. And in that revelation, I knew that if I wanted to keep myself, that a man wanting to keep me would just be a by-product. Who wouldn’t want to keep someone who respected himself or herself?”
But this is not your average love story. Happiness has a hefty price tag in this beautiful tale of love, loss, courage and redemption. Our heroine travels a painful journey of self-discovery, learning to love and embrace the person she really is, and finally finding her true purpose in life. It is only then that Sophie truly becomes ‘beautiful’.
A genuine work of art of new adult fiction, this story will stay with you, possess your every thought and make you feel. Everything.
“If we don’t make out of this alive, Sophie Price, I want you to know that I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love you. You’re it for me.”