Monday 19 November 2012

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

Pages - 342
Published by Simon and Schuster in November 2012
Be careful what you wish for.
I had things I didn't want, and then I lost them. One minute I was breaking up with my boyfriend, Patrick, the next I was the only one left standing. Empty-handed. A ghost who I 'd been. Broken in a way you can't see when you meet me. 
Goodreads Summary

Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn't survive. Instead of heading off to college with her friends as planned, Wren retreats to her father's isolated studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.
Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal's hiding out too. And when the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
I 've sat here for half an hour, trying to put into words how wonderful this book is, but I feel like everything I write just doesn't do it justice. The urge to just shout 'Read It' is overwhelming but I know that won't be enough to tempt you. So I shall try my best to show you just how beautiful this book is while handing you a box of Kleenex in readiness. 
This stunning debut novel is a quiet, contemplative story completely driven by the awesome characters that are held within it. The book revolves around the two main characters, Wren and Cal, as their lives intertwine. These two characters appear to be damaged by life, like two young fledgling birds each with a broken wing. The budding relationship is seen as disastrous by some of the people closest to them, but it is obvious they are just the right antidote for the pain that burns inside them. They may not be able to fly solo, but together they manage a beautiful flight. 
Wren's is suffering a loss that is so severe, her family are concerned she will never recover. Her pain oozes out of the pages like an open wound constantly weeping as life hits her again and again  with memories of the past. I found myself getting so annoyed with her mother, as she constantly pushed her to return to normality. I wanted to shout at her. Does she not realise that grief is a personal journey, not a race to normality and happiness? Grief takes everyone in different ways and cannot be rushed to relieve the awkwardness of others. This book shows how people can often expect too much from people and should learn to deal with their own issues before they invest unwanted time in others.  
As Wren's relationship with Cal begins to develop, I felt like I was watching a broken glass in reverse, slowly sticking back together, but in a disjointed way - it will never look the same but it will be able to function normally. 
The ending really finalised my love for this book as Wren's existence changed the lives of the people around her. She wanted to hide, be invisible, yet she unknowingly pulled everyone in around her, to love her, to change their own destinies, to become a family. You watch as she changes and becomes stronger - her fight with Meredith, the final break with the past. I've had quite a long discussion about the ending of the book with Casey from Dark Readers, who was struggling to feel comfortable with it. The way I saw it was that finally she was learning to cope with life. She could deal with responsibility again, which she would never have been able to do at the beginning of the book. Her broken wing had finally mended, albeit a little crooked. 
This book is the most emotional book I've read all year. It creeps into your heart and silently steals it away. It left me speechless. The words from the song, How To Save A Life by The Fray were instantly brought to my mind. As well as  Jenn Crowel's book, Necessary Madness, which ripped my heart out years ago when it debuted. Amy McNamara has the same grasp of human emotion and frailty within this book, that made me cry so much while reading it. I wonder whether the author has felt grief like this because it is so realistic, it would be hard to believe she hadn't. 
If you have experienced the cycle of grief as depicted in this book, then be warned you will remember and you will cry. This is a stunning debut that will touch your heart and stay within your memory.


  1. The title to this caught my attention as presumable a reference to Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Has it drawn on that poem for inspiration at all?

    1. Eeep! I have no idea. There is no mention of it and I have never read the poem. It is set quite a bit in the woods so maybe.

  2. Vivienne, this book sounds brilliant--profound and touching--and your enthusiastic review is wonderful. I will be adding this book to my TBR list, and will hopefully be reading it before too long (with a box of Kleenex at my side).

    1. It really was a beautiful book. It is definitely one I will keep forever.

  3. Dear Vivienne,
    Thank you for saying such kind things about Lovely, Dark and Deep. It made my day.
    The Frost poem (as another reader asks) is referred to near the end, and, of course the spirit of that poem's metaphor with the title.
    The book was written in the wake of a great loss. I have been told that it's hard to peddle a book about grief and I guess that's because if you haven't lived through it, it's difficult to understand. I deeply appreciate your good words about Wren's story.
    Amy McNamara

    1. Thank you so much for popping onto the blog. I will make sure the person who asked receives the message. I had guessed you had suffered a loss as your words are so raw and full of pain.

  4. Thank you for the review. I'll be sure to have my tissues ready while reading.

  5. wow, fantastic review Viv, I really have to read this now!


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