on 9 January 2015
After reading One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson, I found that I could not stop thinking about the author's other books. I wanted to read them ALL, in one go, at the same time. I was absolutely bowled over by Alice's staggering story-telling abilities and just couldn't wait to get started on another book by the fabulous lady! I found, after rummaging through my mountain of a to-read pile, that I actually had a copy of Ten Years On by Alice Peterson (which I still haven't managed to read), and I also ordered By My Side straight from Amazon after falling in love with blurb. Sadly, the poor beautiful paperback became a bit lost within the book kingdom that is my bedroom, but finally, just a few days ago, I was able to mark it as #currentlyreading, and now I fear that my life will never be the same again.
Not only was By My Side a touching tale of learning to live and love again, but to me, it also felt like a lesson to be learnt. Not in a "shut your mouth and listen to me" kind of way, but in a "Never take what you have for granted" kind of way. Within By My Side, I was introduced to something that, and it shames me to say this, I'd never known or heard of before reading this book, and I was absolutely blown away by what I learnt from the pages. Alice's heroine, Cass Brooks, suffers a life-changing incident, and is left in a wheelchair and with her life no longer structured in the same way that it had been before. On a drive through the countryside one afternoon with her mother, Cass comes across a charity called Canine Partners, who specialise in training dogs to become assistants to people with disabilities. This is where Ticket, Cass's loyal partner, comes into the story, and wow. Just wow. This is also where I had my mind blown and couldn't believe what I was reading. These dogs, raised from puppies and trained with some of the most unbelievable skills, are real. Absolutely real! I was astounded as Cass's story progressed, and Ticket would bring her wheelchair towards her or switch the lights off. Alice really brought the entire subject to light for me, made me understand and realise that this actually happens in our world, and I felt as if I'd been living under a rock for the past God knows how many years! There is obviously a strong emphasis on disability in By My Side, what with Cass's accident, and I was fascinated with the medical details and how Cass managed to overcome the emotions and began to move forward. I tried, repeatedly, whilst reading, to picture myself in Cass's shoes, but no matter how hard I tried, I knew I was never going to be able to even get close to the real thing. Alice's writing was, as usual, so beautiful and, quite simply, real. She dealt with the themes in the book gracefully, meaning they weren't too difficult to read, but still had that powerful effect in making me hold my breath at all of the right moments. There's a something about Alice's writing that makes me gulp, but at the same time, makes me want to dig deeper and deeper. I'm nervous yet fascinated, does that make sense? Ticket, the stunning golden Labrador who appears to bound into Cass's life at just the right moment, completely stole my heart away at the very first mention. I've read about fictional animals plenty of times before, but I don't think any of them have ever caught my attention the way good old Ticket did. Not only does he help Cass with domestic things, but he brings her back to life. Cass begins to smile, and laugh, and venture out, all things that were once scary suddenly seeming easier with her furry companion by her side. I cannot put into mere words how extraordinary it was to witness this reawakening in Cass. Where there was once a lifeless look in her eyes, Ticket sparks a fire and suddenly, they're glistening again. It was absolutely stunning, breath-takingly so, and I could happily read it again and again and again.
Cass, from the moment I met her, was someone who I knew was going to become special to me. Not only because of her accident, but because I wanted her to live again. Desperately! I wanted to see her come back to life, to travel, to fall in love, to live. At the very beginning of the book, an air of normalcy hit me as soon as I began to read, but wasting no time, Alice shook things up almost immediately, and I kinda' sat there thinking, "Wait, WHAT?!?!" I was hooked right away, and I knew then that there was no way I'd be able to step away from the book. I needed to know what was going to happen to Cass almost as much as I needed my next breath of air to breathe! I was equally shocked and startled, wondering what on earth would happen to her next. Whatever Cass felt, I felt, too, and it was remarkable how quickly I grew to love her not only as a character, but as a real friend. There were many times within the story where we were given a truly insightful peep into Cass's thoughts and feelings, and one thing that broke my heart each time it was mentioned was that Cass believed people would only ever see the wheelchair, and not her as a person. There were moments when it felt as if her disability annoyed or caused people to get frustrated with the disruption to their day, particularly in one scene where Cass was unable to get up the steps into a building where she was due to have a job interview, and I was so angry on Cass's behalf. I could have climbed right into the book and screamed my head off at the receptionist, arghhhh! I adored Cass. Absolutely adored her. I felt like protecting her from all of the rude people in the world, because quite frankly, they were not half the person that she was.
I cannot get over the sheer brilliance of By My Side by Alice Peterson. It was a beautiful, uplifting tale that will remain with me for a very, very long time. I felt like I was on a journey with Cass, going through the ups and downs right alongside her as she fought her way to independence. Ticket will always be remembered by me, not only for his amazing skills, but for the way he brought a light back into Cass's world when she felt like she'd been plunged into darkness. All of the circumstances, the characters, the situations that arose; in the end, moulded together into one hell of a story. I cannot rate or recommend this book enough, it made me realise how damn lucky I am, but also made me realise that we truly cannot waste a single day of our lives. In just a single second, everything that you ever thought you'd known could change, so treasure it.
Becca's Books is rating By My Side by Alice Peterson with five scrummy cupcakes! Only the highest rating from me. I am in love with this author's style and effortless talent in provoking emotions from even those deepest, darkest places. This story will touch your heart, I promise!