I always say that an outstanding writer can make me fall in love with pretty much any reality they create, as farfetched as their imagination will travel, but only a few can truly capture me with their words to such an extent that I feel the characters, empathise with them, understand their every thought process, and walk in their shoes cover to cover. Willow Aster is an author whose writing I simply adore, her perfect prose enthralling and astounding me every time I open one of her books, so it came as no surprise to me that this story, this quirky, unusual, out-of-the-box story held me so captive and made me love everything about it. A curious tale of self-discovery and learning how to cope with one’s idiosyncrasies, a rare but splendid kind of romance, a bittersweet comedy of sorts—Maybe Maby is a book I’d recommend to anyone seeking a story to warm their heart and add a tinge of hope to their everyday life.
“The only way I find any relief is by counting … everything … repeatedly.”
Maby is a young woman in her late twenties who suffers from an obsessive compulsive disorder, brought about by a particularly stressful event in her adult life and then exacerbated by subsequent traumas. Maby’s everyday compulsions, such as repetitive counting of everything around her, excessive hand-washing, or repeatedly organizing her closets, help to somewhat alleviate her anxieties and neutralise the urges that rule her every thought, but they do not help in any way with the intense sense of shame from having to carry out these persistent compulsions or the occasional bouts of depression caused by her mental condition. Behind all these oddities lies a heartbroken young woman who does not see herself as worthy of the love she dreams of finding, convinced that all that is ‘wrong’ with her would only inevitably end up damaging the people who get close to her.
“I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be anymore. I pray God will untether whatever is holding me afloat and just let me drift into nothingness.”
Maby lost control of most aspects of her life at the same time when her compulsions started, her love life and her career becoming casualties in the endless struggle that is her almost comical day-to-day existence. A fickle and selfish ex boyfriend, an unreliable best friend, a self-centred boss—Maby’s life is filled with barriers to her happiness and as it keeps getting more and more complicated, her condition also keeps getting worse and worse. One day, however, the right person steps into her life and for the first time since her only parent’s untimely death, Maby experiences the very thing she craved to feel the most—hope.
“There’s something about him that cuts through my hardened heart and makes me believe in more—something more than shattered fragments of a life and the endless emptiness.”
Torn between an all-consuming sense of helplessness and bleakness towards her own future, and the overwhelming joy from being loved, cherished, and never judged for her imperfections for once, Maby’s struggle to accept and feel worthy of the life that is being offered to her brings us to our knees as readers. Her every self-deprecating thought strikes us like a dagger, making us feel protective of this broken young woman who cannot make herself believe anyone could ever love her as completely as she hopes to be loved.
“He makes me believe I can be good. Or at the very least, that my ugly is really not so ugly at all.”
At the core of this quirky tale lies a truly beautiful love story—a story of patience, perseverance, honesty and unwavering affection. It’s a love that makes Maby believe she can have the things she never thought she could, a love that acts as an anchor in the stormy waters of her troubled mind, a love that she can depend on and draw strength from. I lived this story from beginning to end, I felt Maby’s pain in my soul, and I never stopped cheering for her. Ms Aster has also given us an extraordinary hero for our beloved heroine, a man who is almost too good to be true, but who perfectly balances someone as complex as Maby. This is a story that made my heart race, skip a beat, rejoice, shatter on so many occasions, and it never stopped making me love every word in it. A rare gem of a book, one I wholeheartedly recommend.
“This—this is the best night of my life.”
“You always say that.”
“I always mean it.”