on 30 August 2013
"The generous gift of a second chance......"
"Life changes every day. You need to be ready for the next painful or wonderful thing that walks in the door. Because something will."
I don't usually read paranormal books, but the write up on this one said it had a "twist of the paranormal" and that intrigued me. This certainly wasn't what I expected! It was the most emotional book I have read in a VERY long time! I couldn't put it down. This story will tear your heart out, have you question why things happen the way they do and will make you stop and appreciate the people around you... because everything can change in a heartbeat!
This is a love story, of sorts, between Cathy and Nick Chance and Roxanne Ruiz. Cathy and Nick were high school sweethearts, married, and seemed to have the perfect relationship. Cathy and Roxanne are best friends, since childhood, who couldn't be any different from each other, who call themselves "secret sisters." What looks perfect from the outside isn't always as it seems!
The writing is superb as you are sucked into the lives of these characters who are very real with real-life problems. You are on an emotional rollercoaster as these lives are torn apart and relationships are tested when the unimaginable happens. There are so many twists and turns that you are captivated right from the very beginning! It brings to light the seriousness of depression, mental illness, faith and how unconditional love can alter your course in life and death.
"Roxanne told me once that someday she would get the opportunity to do something special for Cathy, to make it up to her, about our family's indiscretions. And then the accident happened..."
Secret Sister. Emelle Gamble.
ARC supplied by Netgalley.
WOW!! what a surprise this book was..I was expecting a fairly traditional HEA romance ( and I love those) - and got so, so much more. There is a happy ever after, but the journey to that point was nothing like I expected. The book begins with Roxanne and Cathy together going to yet another psych type appointment for Roxanne. The duo have been friends since they were in their early teens, but Roxanne seems to be constantly unhappy, always seeking something though she doesn't know what. She's a really attractive woman, so much so that Cathy sometimes feels "less" beside her, and yet she doesn't see herself as stunning and sexy. She comes across at times as shallow and uncaring, but it seems to me - and Cathy I think - that's just a protective shell around her that she constructs to avoid getting hurt. She has an off and on relationship with her boyfriend of some years, and its currently off once again. Or maybe not - Cathy can never quiet work out why the pair are so chaotic, and why Roxanne constantly takes him back after his endless infidelities. She should have been on her weekly "date" with husband Nick, time they put aside for themselves, but has accompanied Roxanne as she has yet another life crisis. Then they argue, and there is a car crash...and what follows tests all your beliefs...
What I loved about this book - and there were many things in it I did - is the way we see people first through Cathys' eyes and then through other peoples. Cathy thinks Roxanne is a good friend, and wants so much to help her lack of confidence. Yet seen through Nicks eyes Roxanne is shallow and a user of Cathy, gay friend Bradley likes her and yet sees her faults and Roxanne's mum seems to know a different Roxanne to the one Cathy does. Is Cathy really the wonderful person everyone thinks? What about Nick, has he really cracked his alcohol addiction? Do Cathy and Nick really have the perfect marriage. Things happen that make you wonder "is that really true? What really happened? Would he/she really do that?" There are a myriad of questions before we can clean away the veil of secrecy, and see who people really are.
Roxanne wakes up after the crash feeling odd. Her memory is gone, she knows nothing about her past and doesn't recognise friends and family. Michael - creepy, arrogant boyfriend is quick to take advantage and tries to convince her they really belong together. He doesn't so much talk to her, or ask her, but assumes things in a way that leaves her taking the path of least resistance. He's like a steamroller and she seems to be seeing him differently from how she has in the past. She feels so odd she can't think of herself as Roxanne but keeps referring to Roxanne in the third person - as if she was someone else- and Michael and her mum don't like that. Though we don't see that much of him one of the best characters for me was Seth, a sort of very unusual but effective psychiatrist. Not one with conventional qualifications, but he's able to get to the root of problems with some simple but targeted questions. He's a strong believer of the world where we don't know all the answers, the one where just because science says its not possible that it can't happen isn't true. I'm with Seth here, I think often its just that science perhaps hasn't the answer...yet! Time will show them. Think flat earth, animals as machines not sentient beings, epilepsy being caused by demon possession, all the things believed to be true in the past but later proved wrong by science. Did you know water has a memory? I didn't until talking to son number one a few years back - he's very science minded and an IT specialist, I'm into alternative therapies and was talking about crystals.(we have some strong discussions sometimes!!) I'd said putting them in water, and believing the water then remembered the abilities of the crystal for healing was a step too far even for me. He then told me water has a memory and was being used in PC chip trials :o. We've such a "if I can't see it its not there/not true/ isn't real " society and yet billions of people believe in god - someone we can't see, who exists only in stories and the tales of Jesus raising people from the dead, feeding five thousand people with two loaves and five fishes, turning water into wine with a sweep of his hand - all things science tells us can't happen. That's a true dichotomy of beliefs to me. So when Roxanne regains her memory and believes she's really Cathy in Roxannes' body, why is it everyone only believes her appearance, what we can see and not what we can feel, and certainly not what she is telling them? They blame stress, the head injury, the way Roxanne constantly needs to be centre of attention...Its like those people who have organ transplants and then take on some of the tastes and habits of the donor - despite the best proof we'll put any spin on the answer rather than believe the obvious simply because science can't explain it....
As you can see this isn't just a book to read lightly, but one that makes you think and question. I felt so much for Roxanne/Cathy, she was trapped and didn't know what to do. In her quest to prove the truth and convince others - not least her beloved Nick - she discovers what seem to be some really uncomfortable secrets about Cathy, Roxanne, Nick and Michael and the relationships between them all, and that they may not have been as perfect as they seem. There's scenes that had me on the edge of tears, they're so heartbreaking and seemed to shatter all the good things Cathy believed in, and yet somehow Emelle turns the whole thing round and gives us what we need to be happy :) and does it in an extraordinary way, revealing secrets that I simply didn't expect. Seth was such a fantastic man here - hi alternative way of looking at life came to the forefront and though he didn't blindly believe he didn't just discount things either.
Its a cracker of a book, if you want light and fluffy romance this isn't it, but if like me you love your romance to have a deep and fulfilling story to it, some facts and ideas that make you think about the truth, a book where everything isn't as it seems and a story that may challenge your beliefs then this is it. A really fabulous and satisfying novel, one where the ending is perfect, not just a hero loves heroine but one where they go through so much trauma and have their feelings and beliefs tested that at the conclusion they come out so much stronger. Its not a wildly erotic, sexual romance, though there is sex in it, but one where the romance is more sensual, deeper, meaningful and based on the feelings we have inside about each other and reality, learning to trust our hearts and not always listen to the brain.
Stars: Terrific, satisfying novel - a real five star read and one for the keeper files :) I've rambled quite a bit in this review ( I know, nothing unusual my family would say) but I keep thinking of different parts of the book and how it made me feel. I think its one of those that will stay with me for a while, not a read and then quickly forget book. Priced at £2.76 for 279 pages / 3732 its excellent value for money.