Review: Decide to Hope
Decide to Hope
An unimaginable trauma. A future that seems impossible. When your world shatters, how do you put it back together? For 950 days, Kathleen Conners has struggled with that choice. Behind a scarf and sunglasses, she hides from the world, from herself, from The Event, from any future with anyone. After receiving a box of letters from his deceased mother, Matt Nelson is shoved from his predictable, controlled life to a secluded beach in North Carolina. While trying to understand his mother's intent, he discovers Kathleen. Matt must choose whether to follow the path his mother orchestrated or rescue the woman who has captured his heart. When the only person Kathleen blames more than herself reappears, can Matt be the strength Kathleen needs to create a new life, or will he be forced to walk away if she decides the climb is too great?
In fairness to the book, let me start by saying that I've been through PTSD. While my trauma was nowhere near as horrific as what is described on this book (nor my dissociation as severe), I am a trauma survivor.
And ain't nobody pickier about descriptions of mental illness or trauma than those who've gone through it.
Unfortunately, trauma is as unique as each individual. So, I respect June's presentation of it even as I admit that this book didn't quite sit right with me and my personal experience of trauma.
The book follows Matt and Kathleen as a series of letters lead them to one another. Fans of Nicholas Sparks will love the classic, weepy romance. And, honestly, the author paints Matt and Kathleen well - they are likable and flawed and the people in their lives are interesting. I loved that the book used older protagonists - I've had about all I can take of 20-somethings and their privilege to love.
Honestly, although it may have been a little too schmaltzy, the book is very well-written and its intended audience will find little to complain about. Every emotional movement is well-supported by the dialogue and action. Readers will both thrill and worry with each decision Matt makes as he chooses to take on a life with Kathleen.
And that was my exact issue with the story. I felt like Kathleen deserved to be the main character. She's suffered so much and relegating her to Matt's love interest frustrated me. I wanted to experience the awful night, the recovery, and her eventual willingness to try and come out of such a dark place. Instead, I got to watch Matt struggle as a caregiver. Since trauma is very personal to me, I"m aware of the stereotypes and myths that surround it - one of the most prominent is the 'love will save you' myth that often leaves victims trapped in trauma, hoping for a savior to pluck them out and place them back in the land of normal.
I'll credit the author with avoiding the simplicity of a LOVE CONQUERS ALL ending, but I also felt robbed a little of seeing Kathleen's strength because the book focused so much on Matt's caregiving. All that said, I met my husband only 4 months after the assault. He would probably feel very differently about Matt's journey than I do - he would probably see a lot of honesty on these pages.
So, I wanted to write an honest review, but I also want to say that this is a well-written story for the right audience. I have great respect for the author. I believe that she's said what she wanted to say well - but maybe I"m not far enough outside my own recovery to hear that message just yet. I still give the book 4* because it's a great representation of its genre and will thrill fans of The Notebook. I would recommend it to many of my friends, even if it wasn't right for me personally.
June happily resides in Sandy Springs, Georgia, with her
husband, Dave, and their dog, Sodapop. They have two wonderful adult children and two grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic exerciser and an accomplished cook. She and her husband enjoy hiking with Sodapop, traveling, scuba diving, trying new restaurants, concerts, and whatever other adventures they can find. Reading and a constant desire to learn keeps her busy too.
A trauma survivor who struggles with mental illness, June is continuously reaching for hope like the characters in her books. She openly discusses her personal struggles on her blog.
Decide to Hope is her first novel and relies a great deal on her own experience with trauma, choices, recovery and hope. If you’d like to discuss trauma, coping and recovery, contact her at JuneConverse.com or DecideToHope.com