Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April's brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April - and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to "save" his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own--secrets he hasn't shared with anyone, even his fiance'. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April's life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral...towards salvation.
I really want to thank Mary (Bookfan-Mary) for being so kind to send me her ARC of this book. I don't know exactly what made me want to read the book. But I saw a review (over at A Novel Menagerie) and it sounded really good, so I added it to my TBR list. A couple of days later I noticed another review on Mary's blog and just totally loved it. She immediately offered to send me the book, which was so awesome. I'm so glad she did too! Otherwise, I wouldn't have read it for a while since I constantly add books to that list.
April and Oliver grew up together and were inseparable. Looking after each other and Buddy, April's younger brother, seemed to fill the days of their youth. They are cousins through a marriage between Nana and her second husband. But that never stopped the sexual tension from growing between the two since adolescence. And as life takes them down their separate paths the two become strangers.
However, after the sudden and tragic death of Buddy, April and Oliver find themselves battling their mutual attraction once again. April also finds herself facing her troublesome choices in life head-on as she spirals down into her grief over her brother. Her pick in men haven't always been the best and the powerfully abusive relationship she's in now is making her life all the more complicated. Reckless and broken, April struggles to get away from past demons that continue to haunt her.
Oliver on the other hand has always been the cautious one. He was more or less a musical prodigy when he was younger as he played and composed his own music But instead of attending Julliard, he turned it down and went to Standford. He now attends Columbia as a law student which he thinks is more practical. He met his fiance' Bernadette and now prepares for a safe and happy future. But after returning home he can't seem to stay away from April. He feels that it's somehow his responsibility to put her back together as she falls apart. Their attraction soon alerts the sweet Bernadette that Oliver may not be the man she thought she knew. And Oliver notices his safe and solid future may be slipping away.
Callahan did a wonderful job with the characters. I couldn't help but come to care about both April and Oliver and even some of the secondary characters. Although April is utterly troubled with her self-destructive behavior I found that I couldn't dislike her for it. It was frustrating though, seeing her constantly choosing the wrong men or the wrong things just because that's what she was used to in life. Definitely made me want to shake the woman.
Oliver is a pleaser. Always putting others and their wants over his own. I can't imagine the life he would have had if he continued with his dream of composing music. His big heart though seems to get him into trouble. He can't save the world, no matter how hard he tries.
I found Nana, the grandmother, the most interesting character. Although she's somewhat senile she is, in my opinion, one of the wisest people in the book. It's like she knows more than she should about things and it's kind of spooky but comforting at the same time. After Buddy dies, the entire family chooses not to tell her in fear of troubling her over-worked heart. And yet I think she knew deep down that Buddy was gone.
Here are a few excerpts that display Callahan's beautiful writing and the attraction between April & Oliver:
“What Oliver fails to understand is the range of possibilites; that people can destroy themselves and one another and the whole planet with nothing stepping in to stop them; that she can destroy him without even trying. It wouldn’t take much, she thinks, to let her thigh relax against his, blood rising to the surface of her skin, until they began to consider the harmlessness of a moment longer. And another.” (82)
“His smile fades. She seens now that they are not just one shade of blue, but a thousand, pale and oceanic near the pupil, dark indigo around the rim, with flecks of sea green and gold. She feels a light shimmering sensation; she is no longer in her body, yet is intensely aware of the way his fingers have loosened around her wrist. It takes her a moment to realize she has stopped breathing.”(143)
Overall this book was an emotional journey with very real human characters. The ending wasn't a happily-ever-after. Instead, it leaves the reader with a lot of room for their own interpretation. It is a wonderful debut that I think so many people will come to enjoy. I know I'll be on the lookout for more from this author!