The hardest thing to do when you find a book you end up loving body and soul is not to turn your review into an ode to the author and all the ways her words have moved you, thrilled you, inspired you, but I fear that I will fail miserably by the end of this review because this book took my breath away, and made me fall in love all over again with Tara Sivec’s spellbinding writing style. Heartfelt, gut-wrenching, romantic—this is a story that enthrals you completely, shutting out the world around you and overwhelming you emotionally until you cannot think of anything else. An epic love story like no other, Lucy and Fisher’s tale will forever hold a very special place in my heart, and it still brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it.
“My life has been spent waiting for this man to come back to me.”
Lucy and Fisher are high school sweethearts, each other’s first loves, each other’s only loves, but after Fisher’s five tours of duty over a fourteen-year span, the bulk of their marriage has effectively been spent living apart. Every single deployment has left Fisher just a little more broken each time, the horror of his memories continuously tormenting him and stripping him of his ever-waning grasp on reality. Until his terrifying fantasies start bleeding into his everyday consciousness, completely blurring the line between his past and present, thus putting in danger his very reason for living—his beloved wife.
“She is my heart, my soul, my everything and I know it’s only a matter of time before I do something that could possibly kill her.”
Lucy has spent her entire adult life as a military wife waiting for her husband to come back to her after his many deployments, making sure he had a loving place to come home to. In her early thirties, the owner of her own business, she has always worked hard to stay independent from her husband’s family legacy and wealth, the only thing she ever wanted out of life being her husband’s safe return and his love and devotion. But war has slowly changed the man she has loved since she was sixteen years old, chipping away at his sanity and the man who eventually returns after his last tour of duty is not the man she once knew.
“I’ve never felt so alone, even when he was halfway across the world. I’m living in this house with my husband and I get to see him every day, but it feels like I’m living with a ghost.”
As their past is revealed to us in snippets, their present and their past interlaced with one another and told simultaneously, we see their marriage as it came to be, we watch it survive distance and separation, and eventually succumb to the effects of the many traumatic events Fisher has lived and survived through, not to mention how little they know of one another by the end of it. With astonishing insight into the darkness of his mind and his struggle to keep it rooted in reality, we get to hear not only Fisher’s voice as he tries and fails to break free of the prison in his mind, but also the magnitude of Lucy’s heartbreak from the demise of her marriage and the gradual loss of her one and only love.
“I want to take away his pain, to stop the hurt that fills his heart and his mind, but I feel like I’m so far out of my depth that I’m drowning.”
And eventually, we see them lose it all. But this is not a story of lost love—this is a story of two people who have fought hard to stay together, to expel the demons tearing them apart, and who are forced to fight even harder to find their way back to one another. This is a story of second chances, of remembering the good and the bad that brought two people to a particular point in their relationship, and of never forgetting the great, once-in-a-lifetime kind of love that never allowed their bond to be truly broken.
“How many people get a second chance at love with the only person they’ve ever held in their heart?”
With impeccable, emotionally inspiring prose, Ms Sivec caught me by surprise with this novel, her once witty and entertaining voice now replaced by a more mature, confident writing style that made me regretful of having missed all the undoubtedly brilliant steps in the evolution of her craft. Even though this story is told in constant and often disjointed leaps from past to present, we are never distracted or confused by those leaps, as their tale becomes a puzzle that forms effortlessly in our minds, each new fragment of their past adding new layers to our perception of their present. By giving us a window into the psyche of both these characters, we grow attached to both of them in equal measure, our hearts breaking at their lows, and rejoicing at their highs. We get to feel the powerful love between them, and all they are willing to give of themselves in order to never let their bond wither away. This was one of the most intense, heart-wrenching stories I have ever read, as well as one of the most exquisite ones, and I wish there were a way to read it for the first time all over again.
“I’m going to remind her why we’re perfect for each other. I’m going to show her that there’s no one else on this earth that can love her like I can.”