This was the book that I wanted to love. I wanted it to be the literary equivalent of a ‘little gem you find in a thrift store’ – a book you discover by accident, it blows your mind and leaves you grinning ear to ear in its aftermath – and while I could not put it down, felt so many deep emotions throughout it, had to know how the story would unfold and what would happen to the characters, it left me feeling somewhat uncertain as to why I did not love it because everything about this story appealed to me. And then I got it – I wanted to shoot the heroine. Or at least slap her a few times for good measure. However, just like we choose the people in our lives to forge friendships with, we bond and connect with fictional characters the same way, subjectively and instinctively, and we experience books that way too.
Mia is a young woman still searching for herself. After suddenly losing her beloved father, she moves to his city, into his old neighbourhood, into his apartment, into his old bedroom, running the café he owned, surrounding herself with the people he trusted and loved – in effect immersing herself wholeheartedly into his old life. Her passion for music also binds her to him, all her fondest childhood memories replaying in her mind with a musical backdrop of the artists and songs that her father loved and taught her to love. But everything in Mia’s life in uncertain – she does not know what she wants to do with her life, where she wants to be, whom she wants to become. She drifts from one day to another walking in her father’s steps, living the life and freedom he created for himself, but never fully embracing it or committing to it. She grieves her father’s death without ever allowing that grief to take form – it just haunts her quietly, not allowing her to move on and putting her future on hold.
“You are your experiences and your fears and the love you let yourself feel.”
Will walks into Mia’s life like a breath of fresh air. A struggling musician whose talents are slowly getting him noticed, he is hesitantly walking the path being created before him, not knowing what to make of his life, but at the same time acknowledging his doubts and always letting his passion drive him. His dreams push him forward and his integrity keeps him in line, never straying from his beliefs or ideals. For Mia, however, Will is the embodiment of the person her father once used to be, a free spirit who puts his art before reason and practicality, and the rational side of her brain struggles to accept that. Her attraction to him is overwhelming at times, unquestionable and founded in the very makeup of their souls. They gravitate towards each other, they just ‘get’ one another, and while Will is eager to turn their friendship into something more, Mia fights his advances at every turn, rejecting his feelings for her, as well as those she desperately tries to suppress within herself. But Will’s love is constant, unchanging, persistent, and eventually even the most frightened of hearts finds the courage to love when faced with the possibility of losing what it craves the most.
“Hey, little firecracker, you like taunting me, don’t you?”
Mia’s upbringing and the values that were instilled in her as a child are in stark contrast with her actions at times, her behaviour cruel and uncalled for in certain instances. Her reluctance to let someone like Will into her heart is unjustified in my eyes, her constant and stubborn refusal to pursue a romantic relationship with him, regardless of her true feelings, potentially making us unsympathetic readers towards her. Will, on the other hand, is the perfect hero, patient but demonstrative, loyal but honest, virtually impossible not to love. This was meant to be Mia’s story of finding herself and learning to live life by being true to herself, but to me this was Will’s story as much as Mia’s, with the focus being on Mia becoming the kind of person worthy of someone like Will. This threw the storyline off balance, in my mind, making me wish I understood better why someone as wonderful as Will would love relentlessly someone as selfish and as judgemental as Mia.
“I have them, Mia. That’s all you need to know.”
Mia’s fear to let go of the grief and uncertainty controlling her are palpable, though. Her character is flawlessly presented to the reader – albeit conflicting and unpredictable at times. But as much as we might love to hate her in certain situations, she makes us travel her journey with her – we feel her pain, disappointment, inner struggles and desperation. There are scenes that have us clenching our teeth, and others that leave us breathless from the heartbreak. I might not have understood the characters’ motivations at times, but I FELT with them and that, in my book, is what makes an extremely emotional read that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone.
“Love equals a morbid and relentless fear of losing the other person. It’s a freak-accident fear, a piece of space junk falling from the sky and obliterating him, leaving nothing but his smoking boots.”