It will never stop being a truly indescribable thrill for me to open a new Colleen Hoover book. An author who, time and time again, keeps delivering unforgettable tales of human resilience and determination, Ms Hoover never stops breaking creative new ground with her stories, and this book is perhaps her boldest one of them all. This is a story of survival, a story of sacrifice, a story about the legacies we are born into and the ones we choose to perpetuate—but most of all, this is a story about a young woman bravely forging her own path in life, and the many devastating lessons she is forced to learn along the way. As we delve into some of the darkest corners of all that love entails, we are also taken onto an unexpected journey of self-inquiry, exploring the limits of our own capacity for compassion, acceptance, forgiveness—all the while steered forward by the creative genius of an author who draws us in with the sheer intelligence of her every word, and then forever marks our souls with the profound messages she leaves behind.
“There is no such thing as bad people. We’re all just people who sometimes do bad things.”
We meet a twenty-three-year-old Lily Bloom on the day of her father’s funeral, the same day she meets Ryle Kincaid, a young neurosurgeon, the second man she would ever love in her life, the third man who would ever shape her as a person. An instant attraction that over the course of a year sprouts into an easy affection that surprises them both, we watch as they fall hopelessly in love with one another against all they ever expected to find or want from each other.
“You make me want to be a different person, but what if I don’t know how to be what you need?”
But the deeper their love grows and the more their lives become intertwined, the more a shadow from Lily’s past starts taking form, slowly morphing from mere childhood memory to firm reminder of everything she promised herself never to embrace.
“When my life is good enough for you to be a part of it, I’ll come find you. But I don’t want you to wait around for me, because that might never happen.”
It is impossible for me to tell you any more about this story without becoming a willing thief of every single emotion that will run through you as you absorb the magnitude of this tale, page after page, sentence after sentence, heartbreaking scene after heartbreaking scene. This is not a light-hearted little romance with a pretty little bow in the end—this story explores all we are prepared to lose of ourselves at the cost of loving a person, and all we are willing to deny ourselves for true love. And at no point does Ms Hoover shy away from taking us into some of the darkest corners of human nature and into some of the most terrifying facets of loving another wholeheartedly. With remarkable courage and remaining true to the story she set out to tell, the author yanks our hearts into so many directions, filling us with a myriad of conflicting emotions—awe, relief, sorrow, uncertainty, joy, denial, anger, hope—and we never truly step out of this daze of mixed emotions, even when our hearts are finally smiling.
Everyone deserves a second chance. Especially the people who mean the most to you.
Furthermore, as we remain only in the heroine’s mind throughout the story, our perception of her and every other character in her life is shaped only by her own perception of them, this constrained viewpoint not allowing us to lose sight of the fact that this remains Lily’s story until the very end, regardless of how significant a role other characters play in the story of her life. Colleen Hoover’s trademark ability to shape her characters through the mere power of her dialogues, however, gives us just enough information about every one of them in order to become invested in their stories too, even as our hearts remain firmly rooted in Lily’s journey. I will admit that I struggled at times to feel a strong enough connection to the heroine, regardless of how compelling her tale was to me, her thought process not feeling ‘organic’ enough in my own mind, or perhaps at times appearing as if it did not belong to the person turning those thoughts into actions. There was a certain level of inherent emotional detachment in her, a slight ‘darkness’ of character that simply due to my own nature forced me to detach myself from her at key moments in her story. I should point out that as someone who experiences life in terms of mid-points, steering away from spikes in either direction, but curiously seeking the very opposite in the books I read and looking for the very highs and lows I try to escape from in real life, I knew from the start that I needed to find those moments of skin-tingling intensity in order to fully feel this story. And I often did not. This being a very personal and entirely subjective sensitivity on my part, however, I am confident this will remain a rare observation regarding this story as a whole.
Nothing could ever take away from the enormous message this story sends out into the world or the way it will affect each and every person who reads this book. I am a huge advocate of stories that do not paint people as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but rather sensitively present us all as imperfect, fallible and ultimately responsible for our own actions. This is not a story of love failing or ending—this is a story of love not always conquering all, and of the life choices we make for us and for those we love the most. A must-read.
“In the future . . . if by some miracle you ever find yourself in the position to fall in love again . . . fall in love with me. You’re still my favorite person, Lily. Always will be.”