REVIEW: PACK UP THE MOON, BY KRISTAN HIGGINS

Joshua and Lauren are the perfect couple. Newly married, they’re wildly in love, each on a successful and rewarding career path. Then Lauren is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

As Lauren’s disease progresses, Joshua struggles to make the most of the time he has left with his wife and to come to terms with his future—a future without the only woman he’s ever loved. He’s so consumed with finding a way to avoid the inevitable ending that he never imagines his life after Lauren.

But Lauren has a plan to keep her husband moving forward. A plan hidden in the letters she leaves him. In those letters, one for every month in the year after her death, Lauren leads Joshua on a journey through pain, anger, and denial. It’s a journey that will take Joshua from his attempt at a dinner party for family and friends to getting rid of their bed…from a visit with a psychic medium to a kiss with a woman who isn’t Lauren. As his grief makes room for laughter and new relationships, Joshua learns Lauren’s most valuable lesson: The path to happiness doesn’t follow a straight line.
 
 
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Pack up the Moon is a perfect journey of love and loss.

I enjoyed how Lauren left letters for Josh following her death, and while I thought the story would be too sad for me, I also liked that the letters and the grief journey were mixed in with tales of their love connection. Back and forth in time, we come to know this couple and love their unique story.

As Josh begins to move forward, we still catch the occasional glimpses of the life the two had together. I wanted to see more of them, and found myself smiling a lot, too, even though I had to keep a Kleenex handy for the sad moments.

As much as I enjoyed the two of them, sometimes I felt like Lauren was almost too good to be true. But the connection between the couple felt real.

An unforgettable couple with that something special we all want in our lives, this tale earned 4.5 stars from me.
 
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REVIEW: TEARS & TEQUILA, BY LINDA SCHREYER & JO-ANN LAUTMAN

519eAHHAVVLWhen Joey Lerner lands in LA, she is on one more stop in a gypsy-like journey, a series of flights from the pain and loss in her life.

She has a temporary place to stay with an old friend, Kat Jenkins, and a job interview at a place called Oasis. Her resume looks like a reflection of her flights along the way, but it is varied enough to land her a job as a handyperson….and then, unexpectedly, Joey is assigned a task of substituting as the grief counselor for a grief group. A gig that turns into something more or less regular. She has become a person who can fix broken things, even as she helps fix broken people.

The owner of the place, Daniel Wyndham, is a gorgeous hunk from Australia, and soon Joey finds herself more and more drawn to him.

But behind the scenes, someone is plotting her own brand of revenge, centering it on Oasis, Daniel, and Joey.

Will Joey realize that her new gig and the new people in her life are just what she needs to help with her own grief? Will she finally find a home, or will someone set on revenge destroy it all before she can settle into this new life?

The characters felt like real people that became a kind of family to Joey, and their stories made Tears and Tequila: A Novel a wonderfully rich tale of how people can work through their grief and find a support system along the way. I loved learning more about them all: Tamara and her daughter Maya; Maggie; Alli; Sam and his newborn Andrew; Dave, who is carrying a huge secret; and even Del, the doctor with a deep problem he is hiding. Best of all was lovely Berta, a mentor to Joey, and a guide in her own grief work. In the end, there were some triumphant moments that made me want to celebrate. A lovely 5 star read.

REVIEW: ENON, BY PAUL HARDING

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In the very first paragraph of Enon: A Novel, we learn the harsh truth of Charlie Crosby’s life: his only child Kate was struck and killed by a car while riding her bicycle home from the beach one afternoon in September. She was thirteen. And shortly thereafter, he and his wife Susan separated.

From that startling event, we see how Charlie’s life slowly disintegrates in the upcoming months, until one day, a year later, and following a hurricane, he is startled back to the reality of how he has wrecked his life, his home, and his relationships with others.

The downward spiral started just after the death, and after he purposely broke several bones in his hand; he then started taking pain pills, and rather quickly became addicted. During those periods, he conjured a world with Kate still in it…a surreal world. Hallucinations became his reality.

Narrated in Charlie’s first person voice, we follow his ramblings, as he journeys into his surreal world, and also a world of memories. Of his own childhood and of times with Kate. And of the village of Enon, in New England, where he grew up, and where his ancestors lived.

In a moment of startling and unexpected reality, he has this insight: “…Kate gave my life joy. I loved her totally, and while I loved her, the world was love. Once she was gone, the world seemed to prove nothing more than ruins and the smoldering dreams of monsters.”

A difficult experience to read about, I had trouble staying focused through Charlie’s ramblings, and felt such a relief when he finally started on his road back to a kind of sanity. He then looks upon his journey as “fetishes, cobbled together by a mind clumsy with drugs and sorrow, and shaken in terror like rattles at the immense and exact unfolding of my daughter’s true absence elaborating itself in the world.”

A haunting portrayal of one man’s grief and loss. 3.5 stars.

PARALLEL UNIVERSES — COPING WITH GRIEF — A REVIEW

What if your perfect life morphed into something dark and dreary, with one day following the next in slow motion? And what if you tried all the suggestions of your friends—like grief group, or keeping busy—until finally, one day, you just had to try something completely off the grid?

In Rabbit Hole, we meet Becca and Howie eight months after their four-year-old son is killed when he chases his dog into the street. They are living like soldiers in parallel foxholes—or rabbit holes, if you will. The connections they once shared are slowly disappearing. And then we see them putting one foot in front of the other until the journey seemingly brings them back to one another.

Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart are fabulous as the grieving parents. Diane Wiest portrays Becca’s mother, a slightly ditzy and graying woman who frequently puts her foot in her mouth, but who at one point, shares something kind of deep about the nature and longevity of grief. She tells her daughter that it is always there, but eventually, it’s like you come out from under the weight of the loss; it turns into something smaller, like a brick, that you carry in your pocket…always with you, but you’re not always aware of it. It’s familiar and you don’t mind it as much anymore.

A sad, yet uplifting journey of recovery that earned five stars from me.