“I’d said vows that would last forever. I promised to love one man for the rest of my life. And those were not empty vows. I meant them the day I got married and I still meant them today.”
From the moment I heard about this book, I wanted to read it. From the minute I started it, I couldn’t put it down. This beautiful story broke my heart, then healed it, and made me truly believe in second chances.
The story is about a woman whose beloved husband Grady, love of her life, and father to their four young children dies of cancer leaving her alone to cope with her overwhelming grief and to single-handedly hold their family together. Six months after his death, a man moves in next door to them who changes her life. Slowly. Patiently. One day at a time, Ben helps her heal and shows her that it’s possible to keep living, to find happiness, and even love again without having to forget the past…
The writing drew me right into the story and made me feel like I was right there with Liz every step of the way — through her grief and healing. And I especially appreciated the slow-building romance. Given the enormity of the tragedy she’d faced, Liz had no intentions of ever moving on. She’d had her great love and even though Grady was no longer living, she still loved him with all her heart and soul. She lived for her children, but wasn’t interested in ever moving on. Ben sensed that. He could see where she was at and even though he wanted to be with her from very early on, he never ever pushed her into anything she wasn’t ready for. He respected her love for Grady, he understood her need for time and space, he never tried to act like a replacement, and was eternally patient with her as she moved through the five stages of grief. But he was there. Always there. It was truly heart-warming to see this man who was so deeply understanding and compassionate and who wanted to love her be willing to wait for her to be ready to love him back. The progression of their relationship felt incredibly realistic and even though it naturally made the book move at a slower pace, I felt it was perfect for this story.
The heart-wrenching prologue made me immediately fall in love with the book as my eyes filled with tears. By giving us this introduction into the final moments between Grady and Liz, it gave us a connection to her loss and an understanding of just how much he meant to her. He was her everything.
“This was our grief and pain at our deepest. This was our hearts and souls scraped raw. This was desperation so intense I felt it in my bones, in the broken places of my soul. And that my children shared this grief made it so much worse.”
When we moved forward six months, the story took the time to connect us to her life and to her children. With four kids under the age of 8, they were all coping differently and she was struggling to try to fill the roles of both parents for them all while living in a house brimming with memories of the man she loved.
“The cold hard truth was that I wasn’t enough. I had never been enough. My marriage was a partnership built on mutual love and shared responsibility… Now I felt drowned in memories of him. His ghost haunted me from every room, and lingered over each piece of furniture.”
“How could I get through to my little girl who had lost her hero?”
I felt this family’s pain. Their loss was profound and devastating and irreversible. I can’t even count how many times I teared up.
“It didn’t seem fair that I kept living while Grady didn’t. It didn’t seem possible. I kept waiting for Grady to come back. I kept waiting for him to walk in the door and wrap me in his arms and promise me that everything would be alright now. I couldn’t let him go… I loved him too much.”
The last thing she ever honestly expected would be to find love again. When Ben moved in next door, she (at first begrudgingly) accepted his friendship but never desired or expected more. But he was just there. Always. Helping her out unexpectedly. In many ways saving her. Listening. Giving her precious moments of peace. Just being there.
“Don’t ever be sorry… You can cry on me anytime you need to.”
“Why are you so nice to me? You barely know me.”
A soft smile played on his lips, “But I like what I know so far. And I’m excited for what else there is to find out.”
I felt like this wasn’t just a story, it was more of an experience if that makes sense. Some sections were slower than others, some more heart wrenching, some more romantic, some sections where you weren’t sure where it was headed next, others where you could feel it building towards a goal. But that’s a mirror of life itself. I loved that Liz and Ben never rushed into anything. I absolutely understood her hesitation at starting a new relationship and I admired his patience and understanding.
“Ben stood on the other side of the door… Before I could greet him, he stepped through the open door and crushed me in a hug.
I always expected him to treat me as though I were fragile… but he never did. He pushed me beyond being delicate, into a place I had never thought I would go again. He made me strong. He demanded that I be anything but weak and broken.”
Ben was honestly a dream. Kind, understanding, communicative, generous with his time and his heart. The way he was there for her was truly beautiful. He wasn’t intimidated by her grief or her love of Grady. He never tried to compete with or replace that. He just offered her more. He knew was he was getting into and understood that falling for a grieving widow of a beloved husband with four children wasn’t a conventional romance. But it was a responsibility and journey he took on with pride and care.
There were some moments with her and Ben and the kids that were so profound, that I just gasped out loud and tears fell. You’ll know what I mean when you get to 65%. Just wow!
“I can’t take anymore heartbreak,” I confessed on a broken whisper.
“Then it’s a good thing I’m not going to break your heart.”
This story is so much more than a romance. It’s a story of love, loss, life, death, family bonds, precious memories, and second chances. But more than anything, its a story of healing. I highly recommend it!
“That’s all I’m asking. Live in this moment with me and we’ll get to the next moment together.”
Rating: 4.5 — 5 stars. Standalone.