If the cover alone wasn’t enough to lure me to this book, the promise of yet another lovely Suki Fleet story certainly was.
Author: Suki Fleet
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: DWS Photography
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
At eighteen, Christopher is restless and longs for something he cannot name. His mother vanished when he was very small, and after spending more than ten years travelling on the rivers and canals, drifting between towns and schools with mostly only his dad and brother, Jay, for company, he is desperate to escape that claustrophobic existence. When they return to settle in Arlow, a town they haven’t been back to in over a decade, everything changes.
Malachi has given up on love. He lost his heart when he lost his innocence. Now, at twenty-nine, he just exists—getting drunk, fixing cars, and playing the music he loves.
When their paths cross one night at a gypsy camp, Christopher thinks he’s found what he’s been looking for, but Malachi is afraid. He’s afraid their love will destroy everything Christopher has ever known. They are ghosts from each other’s pasts, and if Malachi’s secrets are revealed, more than just innocence will be lost in their wake.
As Christopher approaches his 19th birthday, he and his father and brother, James, dock their houseboat in Arlow, a town they left several years earlier to coast up and down the river in a nomadic existence. Once there, Christopher encounters past ghosts and histories that will soon turn his world upside down, destroying his summer of innocence and threatening the very things he holds most dear.
Innocence is one young man’s story of discovery and disillusion as he steps and stumbles into adulthood in search of love and connection. Suki Fleet excels at creating beautifully flawed and tortured young men with huge, bruised hearts and achingly sweet spirits. They struggle to overcome their burdens and to find love in imperfect situations. Christopher is, at times, an “old soul,” taking on responsibilities and struggling with past tragedies he shouldn’t have to shoulder at his age. Yet he bears an underlying innocence and naiveté, holding the reader’s heart captive as makes mistakes in his attempt to do the right thing for himself and for his disfigured younger brother, Jay. Their relationship is touching and heartbreaking and certainly the strongest and most developed in the story. His protectiveness of and responsibility for Jay is overwhelming at times, and his perception of his little brother’s vulnerability is visceral, garnering sympathy for both of these young men that is pretty much off the charts.
This isn’t a perfect love story. As in life, there are jagged flaws within the characters and their relationships. Some remain ambiguous, and Christopher’s connections to others in the story are entangled and at times disturbing. Due to the nature of some of his encounters, the new adult tag on this story remains firmly in place for me, bordering on adult contemporary. There are possible triggers for some readers as Christopher’s innocence and longing for physical contact lead him into some dubious situations. His relationship with the older Malachi gives me some pause, but then it is important to remember that character connections, particularly those within this story, develop in an imperfect world with imperfect people. I would have liked a bit more of Malachi, as Christopher’s first person narrative leaves the reader to wonder a bit too much about him as a main character and what it truly is about him that appeals to Christopher so much. Christopher’s most challenging relationship, however, is with himself, as he struggles to understand his past and to bear the burdens of a present for which he takes too much responsibility. His emotions and actions are at times hard to follow as he becomes unanchored and disconnected, both physically and mentally. This meandering eventually leads to some important discoveries, but, as in real life, certain questions remain unanswered and relationships, open-ended.
Ultimately, Innocence is thick with emotion, family secrets, and complicated relationships. It is a story of the complexities of becoming an adult in a world full of harsh realities and grey areas sometimes too difficult to navigate. Within it, Suki Fleet takes her readers on a journey by enveloping them in lush imagery, vivid details, and a compelling character voice. It is a perfect example of the rich, honest beauty this author consistently brings to her craft. You don’t just read Suki Fleet’s prose. You feel it.
I would like to thank the publisher 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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