Thank you to author Jefferson R. Blackburn-Smith for providing me with a copy of Love: A Novel of Grief and Desire in exchange for this honest review.
There are infinite ways to grieve. There is no right or wrong way and there is no correct length of time. Grief is a completely individual experience every time it comes up. For Ed in Love: A Novel of Grief and Desire his grief manifests in ways he never expected, ways that could even be self destructive.
His wife was killed by a drunk driver, the drunk driver got off on a technicality. Now, that drunk driver, Andie Love, is in a coma from a suicide attempt. He is told that he can come down to the hospital to see her and maybe feel some sort of closure.
At this visit he meets Andie’s daughter Bobbi Love. She has extremely mixed feelings about her mother lying on her deathbed. She was no award winning mother but she’s also family so she knows she’s supposed to want her to live but part of her also wants her to die and just get it over with.
Unfortunately for Bobbi, if Andie dies she’ll have to go into foster care for the remainder of her teenage years. On a miscalculated whim Ed decides that Bobbi can stay with him in order to avoid this fate.
Understandably, Ed’s daughters and others who are close to him are confused about this decision. Why is he forming a relationship with this girl so closely tied to the death of his wife? Well, grief, guilt, compassion, and loneliness get tangled up pretty easily.
As Ed strives to fill the loneliness in his life he also finds himself romantically involved with not one but two women. He’s juggling relationships and trying to make everyone except himself happy.
He helps those he hates even if it doesn’t feel right. He hurts people he loves because he’s too messed up to even take some time to think about the consequences of his actions. These complex relationships play out in a way that makes perfect sense for how real people behave with each other when they all have too much on their plates.
That is, until the ending. My only real complaint about Love: A Novel of Grief and Desire is the ending. It’s abrupt and didn’t seem real to me. When everything else in the novel mirrored a complex truth of human relationships the ending felt like a shocking fairy tale ending of falsehood. I wasn’t expecting such a happily ever after and I’m not sure that it fits.
I didn’t want Ed to be miserable in the end. I didn’t want him to succumb to grief and loneliness. He deserves happiness just as much as anyone. It just didn’t feel like that is where this story was leading or even what this story was about. Novels do not give us entire lifetimes most of the time. We step in for a snapshot of a character’s bigger story. It appeared that this book was going to be a chaotic period of learning for Ed, and I liked that.
So the ending detracts a bit from an otherwise engaging story. Don’t let that deter you from reading the novel though. Love: A Novel of Grief and Desire will stop to make you think. What would you do in Ed’s situation? How would you act when there’s a person in need but society tells you they’re not your responsibility and that they even deserve to be punished for the sins of their mother?
You may not agree with or understand Ed’s actions but someone, somewhere, does. Open your heart to Ed’s struggle and sympathize with him as he makes the only decisions he knows how to make.
4/5 loves ❤️❤️❤️❤️
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