With every new A.L. Jackson novel that I read, I become more and more accustomed to surrendering all control over my own heart to the sheer power of her sublime prose—letting myself just float on the gentle waves of her words, towards the crest of an angsty swell or the calm, quiet horizon of hope—her every sentence capable of evoking an emotion. And this book stands as further proof that her prose remains ever-changing, ever-transforming, as it constantly adapts to the story she is telling, yet never fails to affect the reader on an almost visceral level. This was a story I could not look away from as the hypnotic beauty of this author’s writing style takes us on a journey of second chances and forgiveness, persuading our senses to feel everything.
Four years gone. Four years of heartache and hiding and regret. And there sat the only boy I’d ever loved a handful of feet away.
Austin Stone has spent the past three years of his young life away from his family and friends, hoping to find himself, become someone better, stronger, someone his older brother could one day be proud of. Consumed daily by the devastating memories of his past mistakes, Austin’s wanderings have brought him to the town of Santa Cruz, a place whose vast beaches keep him tied to the past he can never escape, never expecting to come across the one he always hoped to find again.
He’d been my safety. My haven. Until he’d dragged me right back into hell.
Once best friends and each other’s only anchors, Edie and Austin had found each other as teenagers, during a time when their painful pasts threatened to hurt them the most, and when whispering their sorrows to one another in the dark became their only relief. Four years later, as their eyes unexpectedly meet across a crowded dive bar, and the melody of all they once had and lost floods the space between them, they are reminded that their hearts have never forgotten each other.
“Don’t run, Edie. You’ve always been my best friend. Time and distance hasn’t changed that. Nothing ever will.”
Terrified of reliving all that had once driven her away from those who loved her the most, Edie’s first instinct is to flee from the one whose every word unravels her self-restraint, but Austin is no longer the self-destructive young man whose recklessness turned all her most harrowing fears into reality, and from the moment he sees her, he is determined to take back his girl and win her trust again.
“Did you, Edie? Find yourself?”
“I just got more lost.”
We watch as the unbreakable ties between them become stronger and stronger each day, as the young love they once shared blossoms into a passion that consumes them whole, and the more of themselves they surrender to one another, the freer they become of the demons that have held them prisoner for too long. But when suddenly faced with those demons head-on, Austin and Edie must find it in themselves to prove they are not only strong enough for each other, but also worthy enough of the one they love the most.
“We’ve always been an us, Edie. Now we’ve just gotta figure out how to keep that us together.”
A truly spectacular tale of hope and second chances in love, uniquely woven together by an author who never takes the easy road ahead when telling a story, her descriptive writing style turning her prose into sheer poetry right before our eyes. I have waited for Austin Stone’s book from the moment we met him in A Stone in the Sea, and his story is all I hoped it would be—utter beauty.
“Right here…with me…this is where you’re supposed to be. Where you’ve always belonged.”