There’s nothing that makes me believe in happily-ever-after more than the idea of an estranged couple finding their way back to one another after years apart, and Kristen Ashley’s new novel is an absolute masterclass in character-driven storytelling, and in its nuanced portrait of two people fighting for what they should have never stopped being—perfect together. But nothing in this novel is easy or cheaply sentimental. Familial tensions, complex human bonds, and long-hidden truths transform the story into a powerful pressure-cooker of emotions that never loses its distinctive Kristen Ashley flavour and depth. There are passages I wanted inked on my skin for the rest of my life, there are scenes I would never want to relive, and there is so much beauty in the most unexpected of moments, all coming together to tell a story of love, forgiveness, and second chances in life, but also of breaking the cycle that is holding us down and setting the example for those we love the most.
“We were perfect together. Then we were not. He walked out, and the only way I could deal was not to admit to myself that I wasn’t dealing and that I was hanging on to him even when he moved into an apartment, then bought and furnished a home, then entered into a relationship with another woman where she was sleeping beside him every night.”
After two decades of marriage, Remy Gastineau walked out on his wife Wyn without a valid explanation. He then spent the next three years building a new life without Wyn, moving on from his marriage in every way that counts, and pretending that he hadn’t made the biggest mistake of his life. Meanwhile, Wyn never recovered from their divorce, or from then watching the love of her life let another woman into his bed. She focused on her career, on their three beloved children, and on never showing her ex-husband how truly heartbroken she was that he had given up on them, even though a small part of her never stopped hoping that they’d get back together someday. Until, one day, she simply let go of hope. Coincidentally, on that very same day, her ex-husband saw the error of his ways and decided he would do anything it takes to win her back. Even if it meant finally telling her why he had walked out on their marriage.
“You’re going back to her, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Myrna, I am. As fast as I can get her to forgive me and let me back in because leaving her was the biggest mistake I’ve made in my life, and I’ve been paying for it from the moment I picked up my suitcases and walked away.”
What follows is a heartbreaking return into Remy’s past and all the ways it has shaped him, for better and worse. Those revelations begin to reframe everything Wyn has always thought she knew of the man she married—as a son, as a father, as a husband—giving her the much needed answers to why a man who loved her with all his heart would leave her when they seemed to have it all. With Wyn and their children’s unwavering love and support, as well as some unexpected discoveries along the way, all the jagged edges from Remy’s past begin to hurt a little less, and the Gastineaus begin to heal not only as a couple but also as a family.
“The hurt will never die if I have to live the rest of my life watching you suffer for it.”
I have intentionally chosen to skirt around one of the most crucial parts of this story so as not to spoil it for other readers and take away from discovering it all as the author intended, but know that this is so much more than just a tale of second chances and of new beginnings. It’s a manifesto on parenting and raising remarkable human beings, not only through words but also through actions. It’s a song of hope that tells us that we are not the sum of our past, but the result, in spite of it all. And it’s Kristen Ashley at the top of her game, in every possible way.
“Has it occurred to you that in messing up, as you say, you gave your children permission to do the same? There’s also perfection in understanding you don’t always need to be perfect.”