Another stunning novel from Nicole Deese.
This is a story of friendship and grief. Ms Deese has crafted Cece Campbell as a gifted writer and a gifted friend to Ingrid and Joel. She is the kind of friend that I would love to have, personifying the love the Bible talks about: always seeking the best, being there for you, unselfish, loyal, fun loving, steadfast. The grief depicted affects each character differently. A mother for her daughter, a cousin for his best friend, a daughter for her father. “There are no winners in grief- only survivors.” Grief is complicated and need to be worked through, not covered up.
There is so much to this story. The characters are real in the way they behave and how they handle difficulties. Life is messy and there are no easy answers. But after some soul searching, they see that forgiveness is for the benefit of all. “No heartache has ever gone unseen and no darkness has ever been too dark for light to overcome.” The underlying faith of the main characters is played out in the story. I like the whole Campbell clan and the way they run their hotel. They are principled, kind and honest.
There is interesting information about the publishing business and added mystery of a missing manuscript. Through it all, the love Cece has for her friends takes center stage as she speaks from the grave in a memoir to Joel and Ingrid.
This story is packed with things to ponder and spiritual lessons to be learned.
*A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Bethany House through Interviews and Reviews and Bethany House Reviews. I was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.*5+ stars and an underlying faith thread
“There are no winners in grief; only survivors.”
This is an absolutely powerful novel of epic proportions! I've read every single book by Nicole Deese from “Before I Called You Mine” back in 2020, and I expect nothing less than brilliant from her. I think this is her best yet! She takes three friends, binds their hearts together and then carries two through grief, forgiveness, and finally peace with a new outlook on life. I'm sure this wasn't an easy book for her to write, having gone through her own grief when she lost her youngest sister in 2013 (read the author's note in the back), so this makes the story much more authentic. I can't even move on from this for a few days yet!
Deese doesn't leave the reader in the grief period without the promise of hope...a hope only God can give in the hardest of circumstances. Because the one other thing I adore and appreciate from this author is her smattering of faith in the pages. It not only gives my soul sustenance as a reader, but also something for her characters to cling to when life gets messy. Cece's mom Wendy is a great example of a mentor to Ingrid when she talks about her faith in God and lives it out in her own life.
“I'd always admired the way Wendy spoke to God when I was a teenager, as if she'd saved Him a seat at the dinner table and He'd actually shown up.”
I tell you this book has ALL THE FEELS! I must have cried and laughed my way through, all while diving deeper into the pages. Deese's fictional world became mine, her characters my own best friends and the whole Campbell clan my own family. Her words flooded pictures, emotions, tastes (blackberry lemonade slushies in summer, anyone?) and touch in my mind. I rooted for, cried with, and rejoiced with Ingrid, Joel, Wendy, Chip, Allie, Madison, Patti and all the rest. When an author can connect me so completely with her characters, that makes the story for me!
One last note: Ingrid and Joel...okay, so I'm a hopeless romantic and I was so desperate to know if they got back together at the end! I was on tenterhooks because you can just feel the sparks between them. Deese once again proved how she can make the impossible happen, their journey is wrought by rough waters and forged together like the sea glass Wendy finds on the beach.
“Perhaps this is what love did to a person. It slowly turned up the temperature from within so that eventually the outside of a person had no choice but to match the warmth of the inside.”
All I can say is THIS is an amazing piece of fiction that doesn't feel like fiction. Deese is a master writer who can take her readers on a journey they'll never forget and leave them so thoroughly satisfied in the end, they'll keep coming back for more...time and time again. I don't know how she's going to top this one, but I'm looking forward to her next adventure!
Three friends. Two broken promises. One missing manuscript.
As a senior acquisitions editor for Fog Harbor Books in San Francisco, Ingrid Erikson has rejected many a manuscript for lack of defined conflict and dramatic irony--two elements her current life possesses in spades. In the months following the death of her childhood best friend and international bestselling author Cecelia Campbell, Ingrid has not only lost her ability to escape into fiction due to a rare trauma response, but she's also desperate to find the closure she's convinced will come with Cecelia's missing final manuscript.
After Ingrid jeopardizes her career, she fears her future will remain irrevocably broken. But then Joel Campbell--the man who shattered her belief in happily-ever-afters--offers her a sealed envelope from his late cousin, Cecelia, asking Joel and to put their differences aside and retrieve a mysterious package in their coastal Washington hometown.
Honoring Cecelia's last request will challenge their convictions and test their loyalties, but through it all, will Ingrid and Joel be brave enough to uncover a twice-in-a-lifetime love?