How much can a human soul endure before it shatters, how many times can a heart be broken before it loses its capacity to love again?
This is the story of a troubled young woman, Asha, whose life has been everything but rosy. She has survived more loss and heartbreak than any person should ever have to in their entire lifetime, having lost all the people that have ever mattered to her, one by one. Asha has reached the end of her rope, she is angry, depressed, pessimistic and has resigned herself to the idea that everyone she allows to get close to her would eventually die. By seeing herself as the cause of every single one of those deaths, her guilt and pain torment her day and night.
“Can good things really last forever or is it all just destined to end? … I’ve lived my life in a constant state of fear. That time is running out, that anything good is going to be taken away from me.”
Asha’s voice is the only one we hear. We hear her thoughts, fears, hopes, we navigate through her memories, constantly jumping from past to present, and become intimately acquainted with every single heart-shattering loss that she has had to bear. We witness her downward spiral into the oblivion of depression, we grieve with her but we also never stop hoping for her happiness. Asha’s fear of further loss has made her reluctant to connect with people again. She has no family left, no friends and she only fosters superficial relationships with the people around her, keeping them constantly at an arm’s length. But having grown up surrounded by unconditional love, she naturally craves for it as an adult, she craves human contact, affection both received as well as given, she is torn between her dread of loss and her longing to be close to someone again.
“… now I’ve been forced into some kind of exile, I wish for the opposite. I crave human interaction and I crave human touch … I’m so completely alone and I feel so incredibly lonely, all the time. I wish I had the courage to end it, to give up and find a way out of all this sh*t. I really wish I could just make this all stop.”
And then she meets Luke. Luke ‘sees’ Asha. He sees her pain, her struggle with herself, and he patiently sneaks into her life and into her broken heart. His love is relentless, comforting, healing – he gives her a shred of hope that she could be happy once more. But Asha’s fear is deeply ingrained into her soul, it is as debilitating as it is justified, making her reluctant to love again.
“I don’t want to get attached and then lose him, have him ripped away from me. Not again, because it hurts so much when it happens. … But another selfish part of me is also saying: I don’t want to think of my own world without him in it.”
Asha is a heroine you’ll feel incredibly protective of. She is loving, caring, much more resilient than she gives herself credit for, she is a survivor that does not see herself that way. She wants to be distant with people but her compassionate personality won’t allow it – her mind says one thing but her mouth says another. Her story will break your heart, make you feel like a bulldozer ran over it, but it will also fill you with so much hope. This is a book about choosing love, life, happiness over fear of the unknown, it is about fighting for the things that make us happy and complete. This is also not your ordinary ‘Disney-variety’ love story with villains and heroes. The enemy here is intangible and it lives deep inside the human spirit. Hopelessness. Desperation. Misery.
“He walked into my life and slowly, gently he showed me how to smile again, how to start living again. He gave me a reason to breathe again. Showed me that living was worth it and it was worth fighting for. That it was worth taking a risk and making the choices you wanted to make. That he was choosing me, fighting for me and he wanted me to fight for him, for us.”
Ms Ward’s voice is unique, different, her every word matters, every word is like a little dagger that never misses its target. By only hearing Asha’s point of view and her rawest and most private thoughts, we experience her entire life story only through her eyes and we do so at her own pace. She ‘holds our hand’ as she tells us of her most painful ordeals, making us invested participants in her tale. This touching love story is incredibly sensual without being graphic, it is extremely romantic without being sappy. Every touch, every look, every word counts. Love acts as a catalyst for change in our heroine’s life – it empowers her to take the future into her own hands and find the one thing that she believed to have lost along the way. Hope.
A stunning debut novel by a talented new author, a delightfully original writing style – one that I anticipate will become a quick favourite for many.