We read and review for the love and joy of books.
Genre: m/m Contemporary
Daniel Gilchrist is an alcoholic who believes he is broken, he also believes the alcohol helps him deal with pain and guilt from his childhood with a mentally ill mother, a checked out father and younger sisters he feels he did not protect well enough.
Jeremy Evans is also in recovery, since they meet in rehab, but more at peace with choices, although he still has triggers from his past and Daniel feels he is not good enough for him but Jeremy is not willing to be so simple in writing them off, even with the toxic ex that is trying to get Daniel back!
The story is told from Daniel’s point of view.
This is a powerful story, but deals with some very challenging subject matter in a very honest way – mental illness. Normally, we include any warnings for subject matter near the end of a review along with who we recommend a story to, however, in this case, because it is such a frank portrayal, I will start off by saying this story does deal with parental abuse themes, as well as addiction, and almost all of it is connected with mental health issues, not only with the parents, but dealing with people in day to day life that have some of the same issues.
The story starts with a scene from 1976 where a young Daniel is running from events at home again, and feeling immense guilt for what has taken place. He runs to his community church, where he has created a safe place and is found by the janitor for the church, Old Jack, who has become like a parental figure for him. The family are moving to the west coast, and he’ll be losing Jack, but Jack gives him the name and number of a brother out there, and asks him to promise not to use alcohol or drugs to escape his problems. While he does promise he won’t, the next scene is set in 2006 with Daniel in rehab. He has managed to have a career as a songwriter and musician, but alcohol and abusive relationships get in his way of having a full life – and this last round of falling off the wagon was courtesy of his ex boyfriend’s drummer.
He has some contact with his sisters, however, he still carries guilt for abuse they suffered that he thinks he should have been able to protect them from, despite being a child himself. And in the group session that starts, that is also where he first hears Jeremy talk.
I’ve mentioned before that I like stories that take me on an emotional ride because it means I have connected with the characters and this was definitely the case here. As logical as it is that the events of Daniel’s childhood were the choices of the adults around him and not his fault or his responsibility, he was the oldest and the only boy, and felt he was the one who should care for and protect them since the parents were not doing that job and any time the girls were abused, he felt he had failed them and he carries that feeling with him into adulthood. It gets channeled into his music, but also shows up in poor choices of relationships where he is used and believes that is what he deserves.
The author deals with the struggles of addiction in an amazing way, you get right into Daniel’s head and his thought process of the struggle he encounters every time something comes up that pushes his buttons and how much he does not want to fall off the wagon. While the book is a very frank portrayal of how mental illness can manifest and the impact it can have on those around the person who is ill, it is also a story that shows the progress made in treatment, and hopefully helps with the ongoing conversation of mental health. What I also thought was interesting, was how the author shows that mental health issues are more common than what people likely assume, by the number of characters who have elements of bipolar or manic depression symptoms. Showing that people have found a way to have functional lives without treatment, but the symptoms likely manifest in other areas or other ways, which is why people don’t think mental illness is as common as it is.
This was a great story for awareness and for the journey of two men that includes going back in order to go forward, I would recommend this book for those who prefer real life dramatic stories that includes romance. And have the Kleenex at the ready!
A powerful story, although I would have liked to read more scenes with Katie, had they been Jeremy with Katie or Daniel with Katie, since she seemed almost as important in Daniel’s life as Jeremy and the way the book ended suggested he’d found a way to have her be part of his life again.