Review: Love Comes Silently by Andrew Grey

Standard

Rating:  5 stars

When artist Ken Brighton moved himself, boyfriend, and adopted daughter, Hanna to Pleasanton, Michigan, it was because Ken thought the rural environment and schools would be a wonderful place to raise Hanna and he could paint with inspiration all around him.  Instead, Hanna is diagnosed with pediatric leukemia and all his time, energy, and attention is focused on his daughter to his boyfriend’s dismay.  One day, his boyfriend Mark announces that their relationship is over, Mark is sorry about the timing but he needs more than Ken is willing or able to give.  Now Ken is left totally alone, raising Hanna by himself,hoping that she will be able to beat the cancer and feeling so despondent that he has stopped painting.  Then mysterious care packages for Hanna start to arrive on his doorstep, bringing joy for his daughter and hope back into their lives. If only he knew who was responsible.

Former singer Patrick Flaherty knows something about pain, and the loss of hope.  He was once a famous singer but an accident changed all that and plunged him into a world where he would never speak or sing again.  Devastated Patrick retreats into silence and the small house he bought from his mother.  Then he notices his new neighbors and watches the changes that occur next door as the months go by.  When he realizes that the young girl  whose father dotes on is critically ill, something changes inside him.  He slowly reaches out to Ken and offers a small measure of assistance when Ken needs it.  The closer he becomes to Ken and Hanna, the dreams he once had of love and family start to come alive once more.  Ken’s goodness is only matched by his attractiveness and Hanna is a joy in every way.  It hurts to watch her illness progress and as Patrick tries to make life easier for his neighbors, his involvement in their lives sparks him to life once more.

Ken knows he is foundering, just the thought that he might lose Hanna to this disease is killing him.  The only bright spot in their lives is their silent neighbor, Patrick.  Always there offering help, shoring Ken up when he needs it the most, his silent presence sometimes all Ken needs to keep from breaking apart all together.  Slowly a relationship starts to form between Ken and Patrick.  When Mark wants to come back into Ken’s life, will Patrick find a way to communicate his love to Ken?  And does Ken have anything left over to give and is it Patrick he wants to spend his life with?

Andrew Grey had me from the very first scene as Ken races with fevered Hanna to the hospital and gets a silent assist from an unknown man who turns out to be Patrick.  A father’s fear over his daughter’s illness and the terrifying race to the hospital over snowy roads to the Marquette hospital leaps from the pages and into our hearts.  From that moment on, our sympathies are engaged in this small family.  Ken’s heartbreak on hearing Hanna’s  diagnosis is our heartbreak, his tears are ours as he sits alone in the hospital. This is every parents worst nightmare come to life.  We cry along with him every horrifying step of the way.  From diagnosis to each treatment young Hanna has to endure, the loss of her hair, and the pain and exhaustion that is part of the tole cancer is taking on her body.  Andrew Grey gives us an accurate portrayal of a child with cancer without yielding to the temptation of saccharine, overly dramatic scenes that a child in distress could bring to the story.  Instead, Grey gives us a realistic depiction of a father dealing with his daughter’s critical illness.  Ken’s total focus is on Hanna, as it should be.  He can’t paint, household chores are forgotten, along with his own meals.  Only Hanna and cancer exist for him. And we get that, absolutely.

Grey’s characters felt so real, became so compelling that I forgot at times they weren’t alive.  And while our attention is drawn first to Ken and Hanna, who I adored, Patrick slowly turns our gaze on him.  Wrapped in silence, Patrick has retreated in every way from life.  He has taken up wood working as a career, perfect as it allows him to continue to live in isolation.  But his silent life is broken into shards when Ken and Hanna move into the neighborhood.  Hidden in his house, Patrick watches all three move in and then Marc move out.  He helped the first night that Ken took Hanna to the hospital and watched as the joyful little girl turned weak and her beautiful hair falls out. And he determines to do something, anything to help them, and in doing so, helps himself to live once more.  Beautiful, just beautiful.  How I loved watching Patrick emerge from his self imposed isolation through his kindness to Hanna and then face his growing attraction to Ken.  Andrew Grey does a great job of contrasting Patrick’s stumbling journey back to life with the ups and downs that Hanna is subjected to during the treatments for cancer.  We are afraid to rejoice too much for each character, fearing that one or both would stall in their progress to health and life.

No quibbles here.  I think that Love Comes Silently might be one of my all time favorite Andrew Grey books, and that is saying a lot when you look at the bounty of books he has produced.  If you are a parent like I am, this will hit you doubly hard.  And then the joy at the end is also increased two fold.  If you don’t have children, you will still love this book as much as I did for the stories of lives reborn, dreams recaptured, and life promise renewed once more.  Please pick this one up and fall deep under the spell of Ken, Hanna, and Patrick.  I know you will love them as much as I do.

Cover: L.C. Chase has captured moments of this terrific story beautifully in the elements of this cover, especially the vibrant pink child’s hat.