Title: Only Love
Author: Garrett Leigh
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
The diagnosis of a chronic stomach condition leaves thirty-two-year-old Sergeant Jed Cooper with little choice but to call time on his Army career. Then on the dusty streets of Kirkuk, an ambush gone tragically wrong decimates his team, and he returns to the US with a shattered leg and the memory of his best friend dying in his arms.
Life in his sleepy hometown proves intolerable until he finds solace in a lakeside cabin with vivacious young carpenter, Max O’Dair. In the shadow of the epilepsy that periodically plagues Max, he and Jed form an unspoken bond. After a late night episode, Jed realizes how much Max means to him, and life has taught him not to waste time.
But the lines between contentment and complacency are blurred. Things left hidden resurface to tear through their world, and before they can repair the damage, death comes to call again. Faces, past and present, rally around them to weather the storm, but before long, they are left with only love.
When things get quiet, sometimes it’s frightening, but sometimes it’s love…
It didn’t take long. I got lost. The kind of lost where, when you stretch your legs and wince, you realize you’ve been curled up in a tight ball for way too long, reading. That was me. The kind of lost when your brain goes rogue and takes it upon itself to alert you that the sun has now abandoned you, the shadows having taken over. That was me. Do you want that? Then read this book. Meet Jed. Watch his eyebrow rise when he meets Max, and Flo. Then prepare yourself to get lost with them.
I’m going to be (not so, not really) bold and say the writing here is superb. Descriptions are piercing, meaningful, and cut right to the quick with unique personal detail that, by simply being human, get my cells buzzing with recognition and therefore emotion. The most striking are of Jed and his struggle to deal with being home, dealing with family, friends, going shopping, sharing meals and his health. This writing has a confident strength about it. Not boastful or cocky, but a knowing strength. It’s beautifully exposed in a story like this.
The supporting characters feel like people I know. Not necessarily by physical characteristics or life circumstances (though they are) but by the way the various relationships express themselves. Jed’s friend Dan is unwavering in that friendship. Unwavering. Max’s sister Kim is stern in her caring about Max, Jed, everyone actually. Jed’s brother Nick doesn’t get a lot of page time but the effects of how he’s handling his life touch everyone else’s. And Paul. “Jed’s Paul” is how I want to describe him. And Paul’s wife. Talk about endless emotional reverberations. Nick and Kim’s daughters are complete beings, both expressing their own anxieties and reflect those of all of the adults around them. Wonderfully done.
These characters are all vital to telling this story and I can’t really imagine any of them not being there. One of the most poignant and important conversations to the story occurs between Jed and Kim. One of the most heart-wrenching is between Jed and Paul’s wife.
Life is unpredictable. Many of the things we do and feel don’t fit the usual definitions and parameters. Kind of makes me wonder why we even have them to begin with. Anyway, we just know what we feel, and when we find someone that allows us to acknowledge the need for understanding, or even just receiving, of those feelings, well… it’s irresistible. It’s like a genetic vestige buried deep, thanks to our ancestors, and we can’t help but let it happen. We get glimpses of this for Jed by way of Paul and definitely by way of Max. And it’s reciprocal. They both need and want it. A blazing recognition of someone who is in a similarly difficult place.
I like the dichotomous aspect of Max’s personality. He’s weary, knows too much about how isolating this world can be. And yet, he’s patient and hopeful, and does allow himself a limited number of conduits through which to share his heart, especially with his nieces. And Flo, of course.
Jed, needless to say, has this same knowledge but due to a very different path. Despite himself, he has a similarly hopeful heart. I mean, shit, how else could he still be here? Still breathing? Still trying to survive and maybe even have a life worth living if he didn’t have some hope, even if it’s often times overwhelmed by the pain.
At some points, for me, this was almost too much to take. It made me feel like I was almost separated from the act of reading and went deep inside myself… or floated so far away, I was no longer connected. But I was. Self-preservation. Self-protection. It’s difficult, but when this happens because of someone’s words they put on the page, I’m blown away. This was a quiet experience for me. It was like my brain slowed down, pushing me through a fog in slow motion. I couldn’t have been dragged away from this even in my sleep. It feels very difficult to explain but I think you’re probably understanding what I’m trying say.
There is a line towards the end of this book that I read six or seven times before I could move on, two sentences that say it all about Jed and Max. When fifteen words can express what an entire story has taken its time, its heart, to tell us… it’s like I finally got to let go of the breath I was holding the whole time. Acknowledgement, validation of what I’ve just gone through. It was worth it. Completely.
I highly recommend this book.
When you’re done, go ahead and get the little freebie, Awake and Alive. Just do it. 😉
I would like to thank Dreamspinner Press for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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