You know you’re going to experience a myriad of emotions just by opening an Amy Harmon book, having personally welcomed many a sunrise curled up in bed sobbing like a baby while not getting a wink of sleep, simply unable to put her beautiful words down. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer exquisiteness of this story, and for the marvellous characters Ms Harmon has once again gifted us with. Every part of this book surprised me, thrilled me, made my heart burst at the seams, and the biggest gift I’m going to give you, my fellow readers, is by not telling you what this story is really all about.
“This is the story of love with no end . . . though it took me a while to get there.”
We meet Georgia Shepherd at the tender age of seventeen—a simple girl from a small country town, a tomboy, a loving daughter. Georgia’s love of horses and her unique talent at taming them have always meant that her future would never be uncertain, but Georgia’s rather sheltered small town upbringing has also made her hungry to leave home for a while, seek the unknown and experience freedom for the first time in her life. Yet everything changes when a young man with an unusual life story moves into the house next door.
“… when Moses came to Levan, he was like water—cold, deep, unpredictable, and, like the pond up the canyon, dangerous, because you could never see what was beneath the surface.”
Moses Wright was born a ‘crack baby’, and found abandoned in a laundry basket when he was only a few hours old. Moses has always been different from other little boys of his age, his unusual looks only overshadowed by his peculiar behaviour, his unpredictable temperament and his determination not to let anyone get close to him. Constantly tossed from one relative to another, never wanted by any, repeatedly dismissed as a ‘messed up kid’ who could not be fixed, his life never became easy. However, everything changes for Moses the day his great-grandmother decides to take him in on a permanent basis, despite being advised against it by her entire family, her love for him making her confident she could pull him out of his self-imposed solitude. But Moses is not an ordinary young man. He holds a secret that has shaped his entire existence, every human contact, everything he sees around him, and that very secret has made him afraid of loving anyone in his life. His incredible but highly unusual art is a visual representation of everything he keeps to himself, his only escape from the images he cannot hide from.
“If you don’t love, then nobody gets hurt. It’s easy to leave. It’s easy to lose. It’s easy to let go.”
The last thing Moses expects to find in life is someone like Georgia Shepherd. She is open, unpretentious and her every failed attempt at making Moses warm up to her and let her be his friend only seem to make her even more determined to sneak through the cracks of Moses’ brooding disposition. Georgia is the kind of girl who loves freely, generously, and her pride never gets in the way of her honesty, regardless of how many times he rejects her or mistreats her with harsh words. She speaks without thinking, says everything and anything that is on her mind, gives her heart unreservedly, and eventually, a bit of Georgia’s light manages to shine through the dark cracks that Moses so desperately tries to hide.
“She was a small town girl with a simple way of speaking and thinking, a frank way of being that turned me on and turned me off at the same time. I wanted to run from her. But at the same time, I spent all my time thinking about her.”
As their budding romance progresses very slowly, and Georgia grows more and more attached to Moses, heart-shattering loss strikes this young man’s life again, and his future suddenly changes forever. When faced with returning to a place that only holds sorrow for him or taking off to never return to that place again, Moses decides to flee, leaving behind a heartbroken girl whose only sin was loving him without restraint.
“I’m a very ordinary girl, Moses. I know that I am. And I always will be. I can’t paint. I don’t know who Vermeer is, or Manet for that matter. But if you think ordinary can be beautiful, that gives me hope. And maybe sometime you’ll think about me when you need an escape from the hurt in your head.”
Seven years later, their paths suddenly cross again, but neither of them are the same as they once were. Life has changed them both deeply, taken away their innocence and altered their perception of what they once shared. However, some loves never fade, some loves survive all hurt, and some loves never stop reminding you of everything you should be grateful for.
“Georgia’s eyes, Georgia’s hair, Georgia’s mouth, Georgia’s love, Georgia’s long, long legs.”
As always, there is a subtle but very powerful message woven into every word, every single heart-warming scene. By letting us hear both the main characters’ voices, we are given the opportunity to bond with them equally, to understand them, empathise with them, share their hopes. Moses’ ‘secret’ is a crucial part of the story itself, an angle I never expected to find or adore so much, and because of the way it astonished me, I wish for you to uncover it on your own too. This is a book about gratitude, about never forgetting that there is always something to be thankful for in life, even in the grimmest of moments, and that it is never too late to seize happiness and never let go of it again. It’s a story that does not shield us in any way from soul-crushing heartbreak, a few scenes being so intensely distressing that I could not breathe from the sheer heaviness of them, but the beauty of the moments of joy we are given throughout this book is what we walk away with, smiling through our tears and babbling our own ‘five greats’ to ourselves.
There are no words that would ever do justice to a story like this one. Ms Harmon has once again given us an inspiring tale to cherish forever, a story written so elegantly, at times even poetically, that breathes itself into our hearts and, hopefully, even leaves a small part of itself behind. An absolute delight to read, as always.
“If you would just let me in, if you would just love me back, we could have a beautiful life.”
It was when I sat up, shaking straw from my hair, that I saw Moses, just sitting in the far corner on a low stool my dad used for shoeing the horses. He was as far away from the horses as he could get, and thankfully, none of them seemed especially alarmed by his presence. But I was, just for a moment, and I let out a startled squawk.
He didn’t apologize or laugh or even make small talk at all. He just eyed me warily, as if watching me sleep was what I had summoned him for.
“What time is it?” I whispered, my voice scratchy and my heart heavy. He just made me feel so damn heavy.
“You just got home?”
“No. I went home. Showered. Went to bed.”
“You’re sleep walking, then?” I kept my voice light, soft.
“What do you want, Georgia? I kind of thought you were done with me.” Ah. There it was. A flash of anger. Quiet, brief. But there. And I reveled in it. My mom always said negative attention is better than no attention at all. She was usually talking about foster kids who acted out. But apparently it also applied to seventeen-year-old girls who were in love with boys who didn’t love them back. That thought made me angry.
“Do you love me, Moses?”
“No.” His response was immediate. Defiant. But he stood and walked toward me anyway. And I watched him come, my eyes roving over him hungrily, my heart a huge, needy knot in my chest.
I didn’t argue with him because I knew that’s what he was going to say. And I had already decided that I wouldn’t believe him.
He squatted down beside the square bales I’d turned into a love nest. But he said he didn’t love me. So maybe my bed needed a different name. I laid back down and pulled the blanket around my shoulders, suddenly chilled and incredibly tired. But he followed me, hovering above me, his arms braced on either side of my head as he watched me watch him. And then he closed the distance and kissed my mouth chastely. Once, twice. And then again, not so chastely, with more pressure and more intent.
I breathed deeply and wrapped my hands around his neck, bringing him into me. I soaked in his scent, the sharp tang of paint mixed with soap and the red striped candy mints his grandma kept in a bowl on the kitchen table. And something else too. Something I had no name for, and it was that unknown part of him that I wanted most of all. I kissed him until I could taste it in my mouth and when that wasn’t enough, I pulled it through the palms of my hands and the brush of my skin against his as he moved his mouth to my neck and whispered in my ear.
“I’m not sure what you want from me, Georgia. But if this is it, I’m willing.”