You’re looking for angst? This is not your book. You’re looking for fast pace? This is not your book. You’re looking for a book to soothe your cynical heart, make you believe in the goodness of people and that The Beatles were right after all when they said that all you need is love? This IS your book!
A sensitively written story about issues that are not only current but also rarely addressed in romantic novels. This is the story of Sarah, a young high school teacher, who returns to her small home town after something horrific happens in her life that shakes her to the core and makes her run back to a place which she never thought she would return to. She finds the comfort of familiarity and old friends but she is also faced with small town mentality and prejudices. Sycamore Falls is a town where everyone knows everyone, where everyone meddles in each other’s business and where being different means being marginalised and never accepted. Sarah quickly learns that the very things she ran away from and hoped to forget could be found anywhere, especially in a small town like Sycamore Falls.
Fortunately, this time Sarah is not alone in her battle. She meets Lucas, also a new arrival in town, with deeply troubling reasons of his own for escaping the big city and finding refuge in a town like Sycamore Falls. Their love story is a story of trust that is earned not forced, of shared ideals, of common goals and hopes for the future, a story of two people who have been searching for the same thing all their lives and who quickly realise that they are each other’s long-awaited ‘something’.
Sarah’s past traumas have marked her deeply, physically and mentally, making her reluctant to let people get close to her, believing that all those who love her would eventually leave her. Lucas is less afraid of their growing feelings for each other and is extremely open and demonstrative with his affections, but he never pushes Sarah into something she is not ready for, allowing her to set the pace to whatever is happening between them. He loves her so genuinely, making her less afraid each day of opening her heart to him and allowing him to love her. He helps her to find her courage again to face a less-than-perfect world and battle her past.
“You’re not alone in this world. I’m right here, and I’m trying so hard to love you. All I want to do is love you.”
They ultimately find refuge in each other, turning their sorrow into hope.
But this is not just a sweet and fluffy romance. Sarah and Lucas’ love story acts almost as a contrasting backdrop to some very real and very ugly themes staining the lives of young people today – bullying being one of them. I believe this is a book about tolerance, about feeling different in a world that offers little acceptance to those who don’t fit the mould or don’t conform. It shows how cruel society can be to those already struggling with their identity and how desperate and helpless people can become when the world turns their backs on them, even more when those closest to them reject them. Sarah’s character shows us that we don’t necessarily need to agree with other people’s choices in order to accept them. She shows us that it is not wrong to be different but that it is wrong to be narrow-minded and cruel to those who had no choice in the way they were born.
“Sometimes, teaching tolerance and love is far more important than teaching them about chemical equations and Robert Frost.”
I am not accustomed to books like this one. There were no emotional roller-coaster rides or heart-beat-skipping moments, but the emotions ran deep throughout the story, causing an array of reactions from the reader. Anger. Sadness. Joy. Hope. The most traumatic event happens in the past, making this story a less dramatic aftermath about second chances to make a difference, about never losing hope in oneself and having the courage to fight for your beliefs, over and over again. The writing style was rather simple and not particularly distinctive but it carried the message effectively and fittingly given the nature of the story itself.