I reviewed the first book in this series Somebody Like You back in January. Donna Alward was a new to me author and now, after reading Someone to Love, she has moved into the ranks of auto-buy. I loved this book even more than the first one because it was so incredibly raw, honest and just straight up gut wrenching. Holy cow, I’m honestly at a loss for the proper words – I read it in an afternoon because the story and the characters touched me so deeply, I couldn’t put the book down. Ok, where to start…
Let’s start in Darling, VT. If you recall, this is a small town with a famous kissing bridge that many superstitious sorts believe will give you a love that lasts a lifetime. The big, loud, Irish family in town, the Gallagher’s, have a son (they have several sons and several daughters…lucky us!), anyway, they have a son, Ethan who kissed his dear wife Lisa on that bridge many moons ago and settled nicely into his happily ever after. Two little boys later, and Lisa dies. See, the kissing bridge promises a love that lasts a lifetime…it doesn’t specify the length of said lifetime. Two years later, Ethan, our firefighter single dad of Conner (5) and Ronan (3) is struggling to say the very least. Yes, I typed that right, do the math on that last kid, that sweet baby was just a year old when his momma died. Ethan’s huge and loving family has definitely picked up the slack to help cover his odd work shifts and overall need for support to raise two very sweet, very rambunctious little boys. The problem is, Ethan is exhausted, emotionally and physically and he’s tired of having to rely on his family for so much help. He certainly has no time to fall in love again and frankly, he’s pretty damn positive that isn’t in the cards for him anyway. Lisa was it, she was the one, she was a paragon of motherhood and wife-dom and now that she’s gone, a huge part of Ethan’s soul is gone too. He is pretty much holding on by a thread and doing everything in his power to give his boys a good, fun, beautiful life. He’s is rightfully grumpy and more than a bit assholey but damn man, I think if anyone is allowed, it would be Ethan. (full disclosure, hold on tight because asshole is a gentle word for Ethan…if this giant hero apologist is saying that…well, just sayin’)
Willow Dunaway moved back to her hometown of Darling a few years ago and opened the crunchy granola all organic café on Main Street. Back in high school she was the Type A, straight laced, studious girl and now she back with a pink streak in her blonde hair, touting the benefits of yoga, meditation and healthy eating. On the outside, Willow is nothing but calm and zen, on the inside…well, she can kid herself as much as she wants, on the inside that girl is still a mess. Growing up, Willow’s mom was an asshole. I don’t say this lightly, the woman was a cunt. Of course no one really knew to what extent but there was emotional abuse that left more than a mark on Willow’s self confidence and heart. Life altering decisions are made for her, zero support is given and well, as soon as high school ends, ole girl gets the hell out of town. There’s nothing there for her anyway because her Mom left too and pretty much without a forwarding address. Seriously, her mom is straight trash. Spiraling out of control, still with no support or guidance, Willow ends up with a hell of an eating disorder and eventually attempts suicide. Realizing her bad decision, her years of practice with vomiting and purging actually saved her life. The reality check rattled Willow enough to make her realize she needed help. Several years of therapy later, Willow has settled on yoga and meditation to keep her mind centered. She seriously comes off as a person who has her shit together and for the most part she does, it’s her heart she can’t trust and that keeps her locked away in a beautiful cage of her fears.
When Ethan and Willow first meet, it’s safe to say they are complete opposites. I mean, he’s angry, gruff firefighter, stressed out dad and she is light, airy, notice the butterflies and ponder their flight, pink hair and kale chips. He does not want to like her and he goes out of his way to belittle everything she believes in. You can imagine, when he finally lets her in and learns her story, the wave of guilt over his asshole ways is pretty overwhelming for him. Ethan is pretty positive, no one as carefree as Willow could possible understand his anguish, much less have a story equally sad. I mean at least Ethan has the support of his family, Willow had nothing and no one.
Someone to Love is perfectly paced. This is without a doubt, one of my favorite books of the year. No insta-love here, no quick fixes for broken hearts, Alward gives us the work. She doesn’t fall prey to coy, predictable solutions for hard problems, she lets her characters say exactly what they need to say and often times, it is ugly and hard to hear, just like real life. When Ethan fucks up, he does it well. That also means his grovel is stunning. His words, oh man, his words. I was mesmerized by Ethan and Willow’s relationship. It was painful and beautiful at the same time. And then, throw in the boys – lordy. This book gutted me more than once. Willow’s internal struggle, Ethan’s external grief – it’s so deep, so raw and painfully honest and feels so exceptionally real. You can read this one without reading the first book, the secondary character relationships are all quickly and easily explained. I love this Gallagher family so very much and Willow will have you eating black bean brownies and meditating before you realize what hit you. (full disclosure, I might already do those things so perhaps I’m biased a bit!) The next book in the Darling, VT series is due out in April, Somebody’s Baby gives us another Gallagher son. I’m hoping the Gallagher daughters get some book time soon, I’m pretty sure there’s something going on with Hannah we all need to know about.
Smooches,Tags: Contemporary, Donna Alward, kids, scandal, single dad, widower