Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
The blurb to this book really captured my attention. The story, seen through Ryde’s point of view, takes place over 15 years and is broken down into three main parts. The first part shows Ryde’s intense attraction and focus on his neighbor Alastair. The reader gets to see the juxtaposition of Ryde’s supportive, though neglectful family and Alastair’s strange and scary religious upbringing. Then, this gut wrenching tragedy happens taking away all their youthful hopes and dreams. The second part shows Ryde’s life fourteen years later. Surveying the landscape is bleak as Ryde hits rock bottom when his selfishness, pain, and grief become more important than his love for anyone, even Alistair. Meanwhile, seeing Ryde again makes Alastair realizes his life is not what he thinks it is. The third part of the story deals with them both trying to put their demons to rest and move forward. This is where most of the hurt/comfort trope plays out.
For this 2019 edition, the author has mentioned she “really toned down the drama” from the 2015 version, which boggles my mind since I cried several times while reading it. This book has a very high angst level with themes of rape, sexual abuse, mental illness, PTSD, addiction, religious fervor, and betrayal. It is stark in its depiction of what Ryde’s whole family has lost. Ryde’s best friend Sheryl is fighting her own battle since she made the decision to let Ryde drag her down with him.
I am of two minds about this book. Obviously, it was well written enough to affect me so deeply. There is so much nuance here to complex issues like religion versus spirituality and coping mechanisms. Watching Father Masson wrestling with his own conscience about what is best for Alastair is compelling. Father Cornwell, as Alastair’s spiritual advisor, shows the bad side of the Church in wanting to control the situation, or save his soul, rather than do what may be best for Alastair’s mental health. There is certainly a compelling argument that he should not have been allowed to take his vows. Through it all, Alastair never losses his Faith in God, even when he loses faith in the Church.
I think the main flaw of this book is the subtle implication, even after apparent rewrites, that love can cure mental illness, trauma, and stop alcoholism. Ryde’s sobriety is nearly instantaneous. Alastair almost never shows any sign that it isn’t all about him except for asking about Ryde’s nightmares. Their one attempt at sexual intimacy ends disastrously. He warns Ryde he may never be able to have sex, but I’m not sure Ryde actually thinks that might be true–his focus on the physical rather than the mental issues here is astounding. A lifetime of trauma can’t be solved in a few months of once a week therapy or even after one huge breakthrough. Going back to Craving’s Creek seems just thrown in for the dramatic affect.
Shared history and trauma are important components to their relationship, but in the end it can’t be the only thing that keeps them together. There is not much here to convince me they can live together on a daily basis and navigate normal life yet, so I would argue this is a HFN rather than a HEA. Still, the book ends on a hopeful note of catharsis as they move towards their futures, finally together, with Ryde much more able to cope with the reality of Alastair than his 17 year old self would have been.
The cover design was done by Written Ink Designs. This is not how I pictured Alastair at all. The picture does signal that religion will be a main theme and shows the place that is ground zero for what happens to them.
ebook, 224 pages
Published June 29th 2019 by JMS Books LLC (first published August 18th 2015)
Edition Language English