Sunday, January 19, 2014

7 Heart Review: Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

Love Water Memory
Jennie Shortridge
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Page Count: 326

Release Date: January 14th 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Gallery Books and Literati Author Services!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

If you could do it all over again, would you still choose him?

At age thirty-nine, Lucie Walker has no choice but to start her life over when she comes to, up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay, with no idea how she got there or who she is. Her memory loss is caused by an emotional trauma she knows nothing about, and only when handsome, quiet Grady Goodall arrives at the hospital does she learn she has a home, a career, and a wedding just two months away. What went wrong? Grady seems to care for her, but Lucie is no more sure of him than she is of anything. As she collects the clues of her past self, she unlocks the mystery of what happened to her. The painful secrets she uncovers could hold the key to her future—if she trusts her heart enough to guide her.
"I'm not unhappy. I'm... I don't know what I am. I don't even know that." [Lucie] lowered the napkin. This was all coming out wrong. "Who am I, Grady? What makes me me? Why am I here with you?"

Lucie Walker used to be the kind of Type-A woman who meticulously planned everything: what she did at her day job, what she ate for breakfast, what she would wear to her wedding. Losing her memory two months before her 40th birthday was not on the agenda. After she is found knees-deep in the water hundreds of miles from home, she is sent to the hospital, where she is greeted by a handsome man who pulls her into a painfully unfamiliar lover's embrace. She finally realizes she is Lucie Walker, the Lucie Walker who planned everything and has a caring fiancé; the Lucie Walker whom she does not remember. Now, in the world her previous self left behind, Lucie is alone, without even her own memory to keep her company... and in this world, she needs to trust someone since she can no longer trust herself.

The entire process of Grady and Lucie reacquainting—finding love and companionship in each other all over again—was clever, well-paced, and inevitably romantic. Grady's pain of missing the old Lucie—his meticulous, aloof Lucie—but struggle over falling for the new one—the warm, sweet Lucie—is relatable and raw, while Lucie's inability to remember everything about the man she's supposed to love, equally difficult. Shortridge accurately portrays the helplessness that the couple fall into during this tragedy, which, as Lucie discovers as she slowly recovers her memory through various environmental triggers, occurred in the wake of different kind of tragedy that Grady is reluctant to bring up.

Grady is plagued by the guilt of what happened at home that caused Lucie to flee in the first place, but he can't bring it up with the new Lucie—not when he's feeling first-time butterflies all over again, not when, this time around, he actually may have a shot to make her happy. Grady is a flawed, but in essence, perfect hero; he is a man to fall in love with. I love how he is sensitive and thoughtful, and sometimes recedes into his own thoughts. He is a beta hero who, although shy and rather fragile, listens to his gut, thinks too deeply, and always acts with passion.

We get both new Lucie's and Grady's perspectives in the third person, so it was difficult to really sympathize with either character intimately. I felt bad for the characters because of the frustration and impossibility of renewing their original relationship, but I couldn't really side with either of them, especially Lucie. Because she pretty much doesn't have an identity throughout the novel (although it does slowly build up as she learns more and more about her repressed past), her perspective is like that of an infant's; she continuously discovers people, places, and things around her, but not very deeply. However, this curiosity leads her to reconnecting with a part of her family that she strictly kept silent about before her amnesic episode. Old Lucie was the kind of woman who was so damaged by childhood that she couldn't even speak of it, but now that she's not only willing to talk to Grady about whatever "it" is, but also actively trying to find out why she might have entered dissociative fugue, the hideous, inconceivable demons of her past begin to surface.

This is the part I really couldn't get into. The loss in Lucie's teenage years is terrible, yes, and the trigger that caused her to completely blank out, even more traumatic, but there is no twist or no heart-pounding discovery. Small snippets of old Lucie's life flicker in her now empty mind alluding some sort of ghastly experience, but when readers are finally enlightened, it's a bit of a letdown. The climax is predictable, and I'll admit it's not like it's no big deal, but it was just poorly executed. Afterwards, the closing action just drooped... nothing is really resolved, and the ending doesn't offer much either.

While the book is wholly about Lucie's dissociative fugue, it does very little to entertain the subject of mental illness. It's an obvious fact that trauma and repression can lead to memory loss; Shortridge does not elaborate upon this. In fact, Lucie does not even visit a psychiatrist, so if you're thinking about trying this one solely because you like stories about mental disorders, this isn't really the best book to pick up.

I was also not a huge fan of the writing. Shortridge can tell a damn good story with a fresh voice—very readable, very modern—but her style just isn't eloquent. The subject matter is fascinating, and the story illuminates upon how obstacles can be overcome by the power of love, but the writing just seemed very clumsy to me. There is nothing poetic or expressive in Shortridge's hand; I was anticipating it to be gorgeous, sentimental, and detailed, but instead found it to be rather mediocre.

Pros


Characters are vividly formed; seem so human // Gradual mystery // Complex family dynamics portrayed // Very easy to read; kept me on edge and wanting to read more // Complicated emotions regarding identity // Strong message on the power of love

Cons


Writing isn't that substantial // While the subject matter is grave, Lucie's path to discovery is nothing profound // Difficult to sympathize with situation and characters // Mental illness is not deeply portrayed

Love

[Grady] reached for her hands, held them inside his. "I want to know," he said. These were the details he'd yearned for when they first met, the ones he'd pressed too hard to get. And now that she was going to tell him, finally—now that she could tell him—he felt something inside crumbling. He held her hands to keep her as close as possible as she revealed what she'd learned... the ugly, the poignant, the mundane... He could handle these truths, he realized, because the sum of them was Lucie.

Verdict

Thoroughly moving and provocative, Love Water Memory examines the effects of trauma, the principles and necessity of family, and the miraculous gift of second chances. Although I was not impressed by the unembellished writing style and the fact that mental health isn't significantly addressed, I did enjoy this luminescent novel of the certain magic of love—the magic that, for Lucie and Grady, separates a brand new start from the misfortune of reliving the same pain. The emotions are heavy, while the carefully hidden, agonizingly uncovered secrets, extremely grave in Jennie Shortridge's newest; this is a tender, serious story about being stronger than the sum of your weaknesses, and the opportunity to reconcile after inevitably hurting the ones you love Americanflag

7 hearts: Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy! (x)