Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Running from a scandal that ruined his life, Isaac Twain accepts a teaching position at Hambden University where, three months prior, Professor John Conlon stopped a campus nightmare by stepping in front of an active shooter.
When John and Isaac become faculty advisors for the school’s literary magazine, their professional relationship evolves. Despite the strict code of conduct forbidding faculty fraternization, they delve into a secret affair—until Simon arrives.
Isaac’s violent ex threatens not only their careers, but also John’s life. His PTSD triggered, John must come to terms with that bloody day on College Green while Isaac must accept the heartbreak his secrets have wrought.
***WE STILL LIVE is a standalone M/M friends-to-lovers romance featuring detailed adult content, graphic violence, hurt/comfort, and mental illness.
What an incredible story! Full of current, tough topics and damaged characters, elements guaranteed to make one think, flinch, and often weep, as well as a romance that encapsulates some of the best and yes, worst that love can bring out in us. In short, We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer is an amazing work of contemporary fiction, romance fiction is just a part of that.
Domestic shootings, whether it is at schools, workplaces,malls, or events, has, unthinkingly and horrifically, become part of our lives. Here in We Still Live, author Sara Dobie Bauer exams what it means to have survived one of those shootings ,not just the main character’s trauma ,but that of an entire campus’. Bauer’s vivid descriptions of a darkness that hangs heavy over the town, campus, and people is so real that it creeps over the reader page by page until you feel it just as Isaac must. We are coming into the situation just as he is, almost an interloper, an outsider who slowly starts to become part of their neverending landscape of pain, loss, and regret.
I can’t begin to find the words as to how beautifully written this story is. Or how achingly subtle and fragile her characters. Both in their strengths and their vulnerabilities.
The true measure of the damage done to Professor John Conlon is only slowly revealed here, layers peeled away as core truths come to the surface. And not just for John. Because Isaac has his own demons he has brought to the campus. Ones just as current today, given the rising conservative values and his own religious background. Bauer has developed these themes and woven them flawlessly into her narrative and romance, bringing me to tears multiple times as well as to laughter.
It’s not just the main characters that are so well developed but all of them, from those with minor parts to those with larger supporting roles like Tommy, John’s best friend professor who lived through the shooting too. This is a story that will stay with you, lines that will haunt you, from a dedication in a Student literary magazine to the last lines of this novel which I will leave for the reader to read for themselves.
It’s life affirming as well as wrenching. It’s so damn real. It will be on my Best of 2019 list this year.
Cover art by Natasha Snow, Honestly I expect more from this artist than a bunch of trees (while I get the symbolism), especially with this exceptional book as inspiration. Meh. Feels like a stock photo you can purchase anywhere.
NineStar Press | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Paperback
Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 233 pages
Published December 9th 2019 by NineStar Press (first published December 4th 2019)
Original Title We Still Live
Edition Language English