Emotional. Intense. Powerful.
A gut-wrenching roller coaster that had my thoughts swirling, my heart soaring one moment and then just as quickly plummeting into the depths of heartbreak and the clenches of frustration, the next. Wit the story constantly shifting beneath me, I was held captive until the very last page.
- Related Post: Emotional Powerhouses
- The Light In The Wound (#1): Amazon
- His Wounded Light (#2): Amazon
When Jesse Cain enters her life, she falls hopelessly in love with him, and every sadness she’s ever felt is washed away by his intensity and passion. But people change as they grow up. Things can never stay the same forever.
Jesse and Isabel fight to stay together, determined to hold on to what they once had. Isabel wonders if a second love can ever be enough to make her forget her first.
“Have you ever been at the highest arc of a rollercoaster after the long, slow ride to the top? Do you remember how it feels when you take a deep breath as the car tips over, right before the drop? As soon as it happens, gravity sucks the air out of your lungs and for a split second, no matter how hard you try, there is no air inside you. Your lungs are barren. You’re empty. This was my freefall. I felt smothered, like I was dying. For the longest time, he was my air. He was my life.”
Struck speechless. Wow. I am having a difficult time processing this powerful story. I seriously experienced a wide range of emotions. First and immediately the prologue shocked me at the way it ended. I knew I was in for it. Then as I continued, I thought the story would go one way and honestly thought the pacing was a little slow. But as frustration began to build over the course of the chapters, over our heroine’s choices, it struck me (later) that perhaps the intent was to get me a little mad to truly understand the pull, the dynamic, the love that is Jesse and Isabel and the story went a completely other way. Furthermore, after a series of dramatic WHATs?! OMGs! NOs! OH COME ONs! SERIOUSLYs?! FINALLYs!! WAIT, WHATs?! later, I felt torn open, raw, exhausted and utterly affected by this emotional story. I mean seriously, the story, which spans years, is constantly shifting, pushing me to question my thoughts and emotions.
The one thing I did struggle through and am still processing is the notion of real love. I guess that sometimes, in the stories I often read, I want “the one” to be crystal clear, even if the journey to happiness is a bumpy one, and even through the intense jostling of a love triangle (which this totally is), I want to know that once a choice is made, it’s all there … passion, full heart, all-in, forever… In this story, however, we were immersed in the muddy gray in-between. It juxtaposes first loves and loves thereafter. To me, though, even in the end, I questioned whether her heart was truly completely and totally in the choice she made. I wonder still and that kind of bothers me… But yes, perhaps I’m rambling too much. Be warned, this book will incite you to ramble and think and think and think… and probably think a whole lot more after you finish it.
“Isabel, this wasn’t supposed to happen. You weren’t supposed to happen. You. Especially you. We’re from different worlds. I had everything planned out, a course I needed to follow. But I want to be with you so much.”
From the very beginning, Isabel’s life was filled with drama and conflict, growing up with a beautiful, socialite mother who struggled with drug addiction, a biological father that isn’t ever around, and a slew of step-fathers that seemed to cycle continuously through the years. There was no consistency and despite growing up in the care of her wealthy grandparents, Isabel was forced to fend for herself, learning to become the woman she wanted to be. She’s introspective, focused, kind and determined not to be an outcome of her troubled past. When Isabel meets Jesse Cain in school, and he begins to seek her and show her affection, her world begins to turn upside down and Jesse quickly become her entire world.
“No one ever wanted me like Jesse did. I would give up anything and everything to be with him.”
Over time, however, Jesse become so possessive, that he begins to control and dictate every detail of her life, right down to what she wears. Isabel begins to change, retreating into herself, relying on Jesse to nurture her self-esteem.
“You fed him self-confidence and he took away yours.”
The years with Jesse, particularly the early ones, were so difficult for me to read. I hated him for what he was doing and my heart hurt for Issy. How did she not see this was the unhealthiest type of love? As time went on, Isabel continued to fall into the same trap, not seeing the error of her ways. I was honestly so frustrated. Was she afraid to be alone? Was she just too far in to see clearly? Was there really a mutual love that wouldn’t let them go? Perhaps it was a combination of all those things, and I found myself in my own emotional turmoil over the diverse range of feelings I felt. I began to connect with the title itself because with each passing year in the story, I felt as if I had an open wound that refused to heal. Jesse never went away, never allowing her wound to heal, never quite allowing Isabel to find herself and seek another brand of happiness.
“I love you, Jess. I’m scared because I don’t have anyone else but you.”
Jesse is Mr. Popular. Mr. Involved. He has set an ambitious course for his life that to guarantee future success. As the big picture materialized in the last half of the book, I began to feel bad for Jesse too, though, because despite all his planning, he didn’t plan on the intangibles… the love of a person who will be there to share in your victories, in your accomplishments. That love needs to be nurtured, not ignored or held aside while he checks off items on his life’s list of to-dos.
“I don’t want anyone else. I’ve always only ever wanted you. You keep telling me that I’m beautiful, that I’m perfect. Apparently, it’s never been enough for you to make any significant decisions to show me that I matter.”
When Isabel finally finds the courage to think about herself and they split, she allows people in and begins to evolve as an individual. Alex, a long-time friend of Issy’s begins to come around more often, making it clear that he has feelings for her. Over time, she can’t help but develop feelings for Alex who is so wonderful and selfless and real. He loves her for who she really is. And whereas Jesse shows Isabel love through possession, Alex demonstrates his love through freedom. It’s two sides of love, but in the end, both love I think…
“Jesse was the hot flame that torched my heart, while Alex is the ever-glowing coal that keeps the fire burning, steady and unwavering.”
When everything seems to be righting itself, Jesse is back of course and oh my God did my heart break for Alex. The pull of history, the memories of years together, the undeniable undertow of first love is too much to deny.
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong, Isa? What’s wrong is that you didn’t choose me. I waited and hoped and prayed that you would realize it was me that you wanted. Me that you loved and not him. I gave you time to manage through your pain. And in the end, you still didn’t choose me.”
I can’t even begin to tell you the emotional turbulence at this point. I was feeling it all. I was consumed by my emotions. I felt torn open, upset, heartbroken, sad, angry… you name it, I felt it.
“I never wanted to forget him. I wanted the feel of him indelibly carved into my heart. I loved him once; I will love him always. If he didn’t wound me, there would’ve been nothing for Alex to heal.”
Know that I am touching the tip of the iceberg here. There is so much to the story… so many emotional layers. I would say this is an emotion-driven story with so many lessons to impart. As I mentioned earlier, during the second part of the book, you really see another side of Jesse. You see him a lot more vulnerable, a lot more emotional, and a lot more selfless. And suddenly… unexpectedly… I found myself really feeling quite sad for him.
“You can never replicate the feelings of a first love, Jesse. The passion, the elation, the sorrow, the pain. When it’s the first time, everything is so much more magnified. You feel like it’s the end of the world when you’re not together. A second love is more subdued. It’s more careful, more cautious. But it’s still love and when it comes with respect and admiration and friendship, it trumps passion and elation any time.”
This is a beautiful, honest and complex story that shows us that despite having a painful background, we have the power to break free from our past… the power to change… the power to dictate our own future. And perhaps most importantly, it’s never too late to do so. The story has a happy ending that I thought was absolutely perfect. Amazing debut novel from Christine Brae!
“I’m going to spend every night of my life kissing away your memories of him. I’m going to find places he never touched, places he never kissed and our first times will be a thousand times sweeter than your first times with him. Isabel, you are the love of my life.”