“She had my heart. I gave her my soul.”
WOW. WOW. WOW!
I was blown away by this book! It was a refreshingly unique story and the writing was exquisite. Vivid, powerful, and enthralling. The story was very slow-building, and meticulously detailed, but every single detail mattered. Everything was connected and had depth, but it didn’t follow any rules. Normally that would honestly be scary for me, but with the way that everything was portrayed, I felt like I understood where the characters were coming from. Their highs and lows, flaws and strengths, mistakes and triumphs all felt believable. The story felt real. It felt like I was living the story with them. I absolutely loved it!
Ever come across a book that you feel you just have to read? Where, from the moment you hear about it, it just calls to you? Well, that’s how I felt about this one. I had other reading plans in place and three books lined up to try next, but then I stumbled across this one and it just completely took over my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, wondering about it. I had to read it. And I’m so incredibly glad I did.
The story is about a Erik, a college freshman, who falls in love with a beautiful dancer named Daisy. But “when a disturbed friend brings a gun into the theater, six lives are lost and she is left seriously injured, her professional dreams shattered. Traumatized by the experience, the lovers spiral into depression and drug use until a shocking act of betrayal destroys their relationship. To survive, he must leave school and disconnect from all he loves. He buries his heartbreak and puts the past behind. Or so he believes…
As he moves into adulthood, he comes to grips with his role in the shooting, and slowly heals the most wounded parts of his soul. But the unresolved grief for her continues to shape his dreams at night. Once those dreams were haunted by blood and gunfire. Now they are haunted by the refrain of a song and a single question: is leaving always the end of loving?
Spanning fifteen years, The Man I Love explores themes of love and sexuality, trauma and its long-lasting effects, the burden of unfinished business and the power of reconciliation. Through his experience we reflect on what it means to be a man, a son and a leader. A soul mate, a partner and a lover. What it means to live the truth of who you are and what you feel. What it means to fight for what you love.”
That blurb just grabbed my attention. I love stories that span several years (especially ones that are over the space of more than a decade) and in this story, we follow the characters from about 18-19 years old up until their 30’s. It’s quite an incredible journey.
But now… THE WRITING. Holy shit, guys. THE WRITING.
The writing was absolutely breathtaking. Elegant in it’s simplicity. Flawless. Entrancing. I’m really serious here. Every. Single. Sentence. Was. Beautiful. It had this smooth-flowing, addictive quality that drew me right into the story and begged me to turn the page. But at the same time, it was the kind of book I wanted to take my time with. This wasn’t a book you could rush. The story was very slow-building but the writing itself almost begged you to slow down and just absorb it word by word. And not only was it beautifully written, but it was clearly very well-thought-out with a lot of foreshadowing. Words and phrasing from the beginning would be echoed back later in the story in ways that would make my heart skip a beat.
While I do think it’s possible that some readers will find it too slow building, I personally think it was perfect for this story. In order to full deliver the emotional punch that I promise you comes later, it needed to build that connection from the ground up. This story wasn’t just about Erik and Daisy, it was about this incredible core group of friends — the dynamics of which would forever be changed on the day of the fateful shooting. But that love and that comraderie needed to be built in a way where you, as the reader, didn’t only know about it, but also felt it. It needed to be powerful. And my God, was it ever.
There are so many moments in this story that had a such deep and profound impact on my heart… The dancing. Them falling in love. Re-reading the quote in the hotel. The tattoos. We fucking own this. I love us. Human valium. The Purple Heart. The shaved head. The alpha male. The standing ovation. The thousand-yard stare. The lint… Gah. I have this whole long list in my notes of these powerful moments. I laughed, I cried, I was overjoyed, and devastated. I felt the tragedy and I felt the triumph. I felt everything.
“The man I love all right,” Daisy said…
“I love you,” Erik said, laughing. He caught her hand, holding onto the connection a few more precious seconds…
“I love us,” she said, and kissed him.
This really isn’t a fairytale. It’s quite a realistic story with very flawed characters. The author isn’t afraid to tackle extremely difficult subjects. But I really was impressed with the way everything was portrayed. This is a book that ignores all the rules and makes it’s own. It’s absolutely not a “normal” contemporary romance. But for me, it delivered exactly what I craved: a unique story with beautiful writing and a strong portrayal of the kind of love that doesn’t let go even after the worst violence, the deepest betrayal, and the longest separation. It’s soul mate love. The kind that never ends.
There’s actually a sentence in the story that, for me, resonated so deeply. It’s just a simple one, but it hit home so hard. She says, “I hated not knowing where you were.” When you’re someone’s soul mate, the hurt matters, but at the end of the day, you need that person in your life. And if you don’t have them, they never leave your heart, and that sentence says it all. “I hated not knowing where you were.” God. *sobs*
“Do you miss her?”
“What do you miss?”
“I cannot find the peace I had when I was with her. When I was with her, my cells were happy. I miss looking in her eyes and everything else just disappearing… She was my soul mate and I miss her.”
Gah. I love that!
Now, I want to address the cheating that takes place in this story and why I was ok with it. As many of you know, it’s very rare for me to even consider reading anything with any kind of cheating. It’s a hard limit for me and it’s rare for me to either forgive the characters for it, or even want to read about it. When I read the line in the blurb saying “until a shocking act of betrayal destroys their relationship”, I immediately guessed cheating and became wary. On one hand, I was incredibly drawn to the story. On the other hand, that put me right off. So I went straight to the source and messaged the author privately about it. At the end of the day, no one wants someone who might hate their story to read it, so I trusted that she’d give me the most honest answer she could. And it was her answer that convinced me to give the book a shot.
Aestas: Ok — brutally honest question for you… cheating is usually a hard limit for me. But there have occasionally been (very rare) exceptions to my rules. Do you think honestly that there’s a chance this could still be something I’d like even taking the way I feel about cheating into consideration?
She took 4 minutes before answering, clearly thinking about it. And then said this:
Suanne (author): I think it could, yes. Because the tragedy of the storyline lies not only in Daisy’s decision (however impaired) but also Erik’s choice in how to deal with it. And it’s his evolution to turn around and face the issue which drives the story. It’s not formulaic or clichéd.
It was an honest answer and in the end she was right. My issue with cheating lies in the fact that I feel it completely undermines the characters’ love for each other. The thing that made me open to the idea of being more understanding in this case was the severe trauma they had gone through with the school shooting. I understand that PTSD changes people, and I understand that being young and trying to deal with it without professional help can lead a person down destructive paths. For me, it was more a question of trusting that in the book the author would not only explain the situation in a way that made me understand the characters, but also that she would handle the consequent healing (however long that process took) in a realistic manner. And I have to say that she was absolutely right. It wasn’t formulaic or clichéd. It felt very real. And as such, it allowed me to love this story — even the most painful parts.
For those of you who want more details…
“Leaving isn’t always the end of loving.”
Regarding the ending, you should know it’s happy. I’ll come right out and say it because the blurb can be a little scary. This isn’t a tragic story. It’s incredibly painful and heartbreaking at times and deals with many serious themes. But ultimately, it’s uplifiting. The point really is that these characters were able to come through it all stronger, and were able to find each other again. This is their journey to get there.
I personally loved this story because it was exactly what I was looking for right now. To me, it was amazing. Breathtaking and refreshing. Completely unique. If you’re looking for a light-hearted, fast-paced thrill-ride, this isn’t it. If you want the kind of story that’ll work it’s way into your heart, make you loose sleep while you stay up reading, and make you truly feel the journey, this is it. It’s a deep story. It’s multi-layered. It’s slow building. But I promise you that everything happens for a reason. And I personally am so glad I decided to read it because this is now without a doubt one of my favorite books!
However, I will say that I felt like it needed more to it at the end. There is actually a second book currently available that tells Daisy’s side of the story (because this book is Erik’s story). But personally I didn’t find that I needed to know more about what had already happened — I felt like I actually understood that part well enough to be completely satisfied with it — but I wanted more from the end. It’s happy, but open ended. I have heard though that she’s planning to write a third book though so maybe we’ll get more then. Regardless, this is a complete story with a resolved ending and it can be read as a standalone.
As for rating, this easily had 5 star writing and a 5 star story. But I’m going with a 4.5 star rating overall because even though it had a resolved ending, after experiencing a decade of heartache with these characters, I needed more time focused on the happiness at the end to balance the whole story out. I was euphorically relieved that they’d found their way back to each other, but I wanted to see more of their future. If this book had had three more chapters and an epilogue, it would have been 5 stars all the way!
But I truly did love it and I feel the need to mention yet again how utterly beautiful the writing was!
“All I know is twelve years later, you’re still in my head and I don’t stop thinking about you. I can’t stop thinking about you.”
And lastly, I want to share a note from the author that was actually the final thing that made me drop everything to read this book. I’ve heard that this book was her debut novel. That blows my mind. If this were someone’s tenth book, I’d have been impressed. But the fact that this was her first book (!!) is a true testament to her natural writing talent. And what she describes is exactly what I’m always searching for:
A good story absorbs you into another world, where you meet characters so believable, you’re pissed off you can’t call them to have coffee. Or take them to bed.
You don’t want just another “contemporary romance.” You don’t want a genre. You want a story that mirrors your longing. You want to see the unspoken words in your heart on the page. You want to be touched and validated. You want to be swept up in a love that erases the universe and sets you at the center of a new galaxy. But you’re no fool… You want it to be believable.
I want that, too. I want to write passionate but thoughtful love stories. I made up my own genre: I call it emotionally intelligent romance.
Now come over here. I have a story for you.
WOW, right? That’s why I read this book. It was absolutely breathtaking!! With it’s unique plotline and utterly exquisite writing, this is the kind of story you feel deep in your heart and that’ll stay with you long after you finish reading. I highly recommend it!
Rating: 4.5 stars! Contemporary Adult “emotionally intelligent” romance.