I am never going to have enough talent at my disposal to fully express how much this book has changed me, how much it has shifted something in me and made me take note of every single word in it. Picked on a whim, I never expected to find this perfect of a story, never even hoped I would connect with it so profoundly and adore its characters so much, but I have fallen head over heels for Mariana Zapata’s extraordinary voice within minutes of opening this book. Ms Zapata truly astonishes with the fluidity of her writing, with her eloquent, crisp style that pulls you in immediately and holds you spellbound until the end. Her tone is playful yet powerful, light yet moving, and with her every sentence, she slays the reader’s heart into pieces. This was one of the most beautiful, poignant stories I have ever read, and one I am recommending without reservation.
Sometimes I felt like a traitor for how much I loved them. Like I shouldn’t, because they weren’t supposed to be mine to begin with. Like I shouldn’t think they made my life better when the only reason they were mine, lighting my life up, was because of something awful.
Diana Casillas never expected to become sole guardian of two of the brightest lights in her life, but at twenty-nine, she is not just an aunt and adoptive mother to her two young nephews, Josh and Louie, but also the kind of reluctant role model she never thought she’d have to be. She has spent the past two years of her life putting her nephews’ happiness and wellbeing first while pushing aside her sorrow, making sure that the great tragedy that has changed their family forever does not destroy their young spirits too. She forces herself to be tough even her heart is crumbling, to smile even when all she wants to do is cry for days on end, and to keep growing up even though she thought she was done growing a long time ago. Because for Diana, the sun rises and sets on her two boys, and for them, there is nothing she would not make herself do.
For my kids, I would do anything.
We meet them as they start a new life in a new city, a new neighbourhood, a new house to call their home, and from the start, our hearts beam from witnessing the kind of selflessness Diana demonstrates daily towards her two wards. It takes centre stage, filling the pages with innumerable acts of true love and conscientious parenting, and while I would have been more than happy just spending time in the Casillas household, watching their every interaction, we know that this is not just that kind of love story. This is also a story of a young woman dreaming of a man who would see past her circumstance, a man who would embrace all her quirks and bends, a man who would love her boys as if they were his own, but never in a million years expecting to find such a man living across the street from her. Or to have to make him like her.
My grandma had told me once you couldn’t make someone love you or even like you, but you could sure as hell make someone put up with you.
As a soon-to-be divorcee, the last thing on Dallas Walker’s mind is to jump into another relationship any time soon, but everything about the straight-talking single mum living next door gets under his skin a little more each day. They build a friendship before either of them is even willing to admit their feelings to themselves. Their hearts grow to love one another as they slowly learn to trust again, and the more their daily lives become inextricably entwined, the more they become part of ‘something’ before any labels are even put on what they’re feeling for one another.
“You’re f*cking nuts.”
“You know that, but you’re still here, aren’t you?”
“I’m still here, Peach.”
The romantic aspect of this story develops unhurriedly from one page to the next, forcing us to take note of every single detail, every single word, to fully absorb each moment in all its ‘slow burning’ glory. The author writes with such emotional intelligence, with so much heart and wit, it is impossible not to fall in love with these characters to the point of willingly losing ourselves in their every interaction. The story remains emotionally driven beginning to end, with no great highs or lows, but rather a constant stream of heartening moments that warm our souls from the inside out.
“It’s like you’re purposely trying to get me to love you, Dallas. I swear to God. You don’t even want me to stick my hand down your pants. You want me to want it all.”
A sublime tale of human resilience in the aftermath of unspeakable loss, this was a book that I cannot stop thinking about, or re-reading the many passages that I found myself highlighting obsessively. And the more I ponder on it, the more layers to this story I find myself discovering, my love for this rare gem of a book only growing as time goes by.
“I always figured I’d grow old with someone, so I need to make the next one count since it’s for keeps.”