At its heart is a friendship. I am always blown away by how Ms. Reay seems to have such a clear understanding of how to write relationships between characters which depict the real, messy, and complicated emotions that we human beings deal with. Our relationships with the people around us aren't always easy, and so, likewise, Mary and Isabel's friendship is struggling mightily when we first meet them. The problems between them are barely understood by either, yet as they are forced into constant proximity, Mary begins to realize there is so much more to the story than just what she's seeing and experiencing. Thus by getting a change in perspective, it allows her eyes to truly be opened to her own abilities and flaws. And the growth that begins to transpire as the story builds to the climax is so beautifully written!
From the very first page, I instantly liked Mary. I understood so many of her emotions and inability to fully express them properly. I related to the fact that she feels so very much! But Isabel, on the other hand? She isn't nearly so likeable. Yet that did not deter me from wishing to see these two friends restored, somehow, because, of the many things Ms. Reay excels at, taking seemingly unlikeable characters and infusing them with humanity and heart (even if hidden deep) is certainly one such! Isabel seems to have the setup of a villain in the story, yet we understand that she isn't one. Don't get me wrong, she really does make some awful choices and acts pretty terrible several times, yet there was just something intriguing about her that made me want to change my mind. Consequently, I spent so much of her time on the page simultaneously wishing she'd go away, yet wanting to understand her better! :D
Then there's Nathan. Ah, my heart! I was so pleased whenever he'd show up. Watching he and Mary tiptoe around each other is super adorable! Especially when they stop tiptoeing and finally begin being honest. Let's just say there was many a swoonworthy moment! ;) Yet for all the cute he brings, he is also a catalyst for change. He brings abrupt change to Mary and Isabel's relationship, as well as causing Mary to begin to understand herself better. In fact, they both challenge each other in all the best (and sometimes uncomfortable) ways! I can truly root for a couple who inspire each other to growth within themselves. Their relationship balances so well between the adorable and the complicated and messy.
One of the most fascinating things about Ms. Reay's writing is her innate understanding of people. I always seem to relate to her characters, even when we have completely different tastes and opinions! Somehow I always see bits of myself in them, or even of real people I know. She interprets real life so well that we instantly connect and relate! Plus I had several instances where I had to reread certain passages numerous times, just to allow the beautiful words time to really sink into my heart. Whenever that starts happening, I know the book is truly something special!
I read and reread so many paragraphs, I was thoroughly swept up into Mary's life and dearly wishing such an Austen-themed experience actually existed! I fell in love with the sweetness of the romance, and not to mention the side characters...! Oh, how could I forget how much I adored Benson and Moira and Gertrude! Especially Gertrude. I loved how one true conversation with her created this instant connection that was a refuge for Mary during some distressing moments. So true of real life, how some people we just feel a kinship with immediately.
All this to say that I clearly have FEELINGS for this wonderful story! I can say nothing else but that you should read it immediately! Don't wait, don't hesitate, just read it. I can't imagine you being disappointed. :)
**I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
"When I called Dad to report, we spent fifteen minutes pondering what we could measure in skittles and how many each project might take."
"...I love books. The weight. The smell. The bigger the better. It’s a shame Encyclopedia Britannica doesn’t print all those encyclopedias anymore. Weren’t those the best?"
"...I knew I was probably still missing nuances and subtleties and most of her [Jane Austen] brilliance, but what I caught was captivating."
"This deep quiet felt as if it had been growing and solidifying for years rather than moments or hours....I felt myself expand, breathe deep. I felt myself listening."
"And I was diminishing--as one should before the size and unending grandeur of the universe. It wasn't that I was smaller or less significant; it simply felt like I didn't need to fight for a place within it or for my own protection. I simply was, and that was enough."
"Music is math, and once you understand that...How can anyone not be in awe? It's the audible expression behind the laws of the universe. It feels like the only thing, apart from God, that lives outside time. Once released, it lives on and it can make you laugh and cry, rip you apart and heal you, all within a few discrete notes strung together. And while it follows rules, express is limitless."
"It was about music, fear, voice, running away and tucking close. It was about family and swirling emotions I couldn’t name, but I felt in my heart as it pounded with each step."