Seriously though, this story is absolutely delightful! After reading and loving, Close to You earlier this year, I was highly anticipating Ms. Isaac's next book. Even more so when I knew Jackson and Allie would be secondary characters in it! In fact, those two featured quite a bit more prominently that I thought they may, but you'll get no complaining from me, no sir. I loved seeing their life after the 'happily ever after'. But my absolute favorite bits? Were any time that Peter and Emilia were on the page! Because while I loved how perfectly Jackson and Allie fit each other, Peter and Emilia's connection was even more so.
Ah, what is there to say about those two? First of all, that meet cute has to be in my top ten! Seriously all kinds of adorable! The best part is it happens twice, and it sets the stage for many more amusing moments between them. They have crackling chemistry and when you get the two of them close....ooohhh my! ;) They also have this innate perception of one another. They can see the pain inside the other, for neither has a life filled with happiness and rainbows at the moment. They each carry scars, both figuratively and literally, yet that's the beauty of their individual trajectories. As they interact, slowly but surely they bring healing and peace into their own lives. Peace has been something the pair of them has been lacking for quite a long time. They've both tried to fill that void, very unsuccessfully. It takes meeting each other and being forced to face their problems head on before they can find true rest and comfort. Their journey's aren't easy, they're rather difficult actually, but as they slowly open up to one another, they begin to learn that forgiveness and grace are not earned, they are freely given.
Slipping in between all the swoony romance and great character growth comes one of the biggest highlights of the story for me. Emilia is a fan of C.S. Lewis (as am I! :), hence all the references to his works, especially The Chronicles of Narnia! Ms. Isaac excels at establishing the themes of Lewis' stories as a foundation and then using them to create this really wonderful mix of faith-building and self-discernment, all while feeling comfortably immersed in classic literature. Quite similar to Katherine Reay's books as a matter of fact, except with a bit more romance! (One of the highest compliments I can give. :)
I don't know how Ms. Isaac did it, but this sophomore novel felt so much more than her first. Close to You was excellent, but this one really showcases her rising skill. I'm not sure how to describe it, it just felt like she had settled more comfortably into her writer voice. Both stories are amazing, but this one simply feels exceptional. These characters put down roots in my heart and refused to leave. For hours and days after, I was still thinking about them and needing to go back and revisit all my favorite bits. That doesn't happen with every story I read, so when it does? I know I've found a good one! :) It goes without saying that I recommend this story, friends. Try it and see what you think!
**I received a complimentary copy via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
Wherever you are, Emmy, you will always find safety here. And one day, one day, you and me? We'll find the wardrobe.
The words her mom had whispered to her tiptoed through her mind. Whispers of the past that haunted her every step.
The door swung open without even a squeak. Smoothly, on hinges that felt like they'd been oiled seconds ago, even though the cobwebs in the top corner told a different story.
She stuck her head in. Darkness met her like a warm embrace. For all the unfulfilled promises her mother had made, for some reason the one about always feeling safe in wardrobes had stuck. Along with the compulsion to continue her mother's lifelong mission to find the one.
There were rules, of course. No feeling for the back until you were inside. No playing it safe, keeping your feet on the outside and reaching out. You had to commit. Narnia would never be found by those who were uncertain or ambivalent.