Imagine you wake up to find yourself in a hospital room with the memories of 25 years of your life just missing, gone, kaput. In your mind you are a college student at the beginning of your life ready to pursue your dreams and make a difference. You prefer diet Coke to coffee and want your parents to come to the hospital to see you, not this 50 year old stranger who keeps holding your hand telling you he is your husband. And let's just say that the shock of seeing your reflection in the mirror is a bit jarring. This is the predicament of Noelle Hueston, the main character in The Shadow of Your Smile by Susan May Warren. Only Noelle isn't a college student, she is a married woman with children and a husband and some tough memories that she cannot recall.
The struggling marriage of Noelle and her husband Eli is simply forgotten by Noelle after suffering an accident where her head is hit incredibly hard causing her to lose all memories from the last 25 years. So while she is struggling to remember her past and the people closest to her, she also discovers that things have not turned out for her as she thought they would. She was an aspiring artist that all but gave up her dreams for others and she feels a bit disappointed to see what her 40-something self did with her life in comparison to what her 20-something self thought she would be doing. What a fascinating perspective for her to see. She's not too happy with her waist size either. (But then again, who is?) Her husband Eli seeks to have a brand new start with this new wife who doesn't remember all the heartache of their past and wants to build forward from there. They both learn though that it's impossible to divorce our past from our present, it's what grows us and something we need to make peace with in order to move forward. It cannot be ignored. There are some other family dynamic stuff that comes into play with the sons that shows some pretty realistic moments, I believe- people placing blame, the importance of honesty and forgiveness. Very well done here.
I thought the pacing of the novel was good, enjoyed the character development and storyline. I actually thought the ending was good, realistic, although I might say that part felt a little rushed. Overall, I enjoyed what this novel explored, the whole idea of are you happy where you are, is it what you imagined and if not, what can you do to change it? I think we all have that question in our mind to a certain extent. Is my life really what I pictured it would be? My answer is no, it's not, but I think this alternate route, personally, is better than what I had planned.
I was graciously provided a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
There is a lot of tragedy in this book. The book opens with Noelle Hueston's running from a Murder robbery. She takes a terrible fall and ends up with a head injury and amnesia. She doesn't know her son's Kirby or Kyle or her husband Eli.
Three years ago there was another robbery and a double murder...Eli and Noelle 17 year old daughter Kelsey, and Kelsy's best friends Dad is also killed. The toll of this puts a big strain on their twenty-five year marriage. So when Noelle doesn't remember them he makes a decision not to tell her about Kelsey.
There is so much action in this book that I read this in one day! You need to get to the end to find out the answers, much is answered, but I still have a few unanswered. The book will want to make you move to Deep Haven MN, and embrace this wonderful God loving people.
I recommend this awesome read!
I was provided with an e-book by Tyndale House Publishing, and was not required to give a positive review.
PROS: Part of a series but each novel is a standalone; made me care enough about the characters that I cried during flashback scenes; unputdownable!
CONS: There was a lot of drama going on for such a small, seemingly peaceful town; it seemed like this family had everything possibly going against them.
Following a trauma that recently rocked their family, Eli and Noelle's marriage is on the rocks. Eli has no idea what his wife gets up to when he's out of the house, and now that he's a retired cop he spends most of his time ice-fishing in order to avoid his family. Noelle is on the brink of making a decision that could tear her family apart when she's involved in an accident that causes her to forget the last twenty-five years of her life. She wakes up in a hospital bed thinking she's still at college, and she has no idea who Eli is and no recollection of their marriage or children. Eli realises that God has given him a second chance, the opportunity to get his marriage back on track. But can he make Noelle fall in love with him again before she figures out why their marriage went south in the first place?
I make no secret of the fact that my guilty pleasure when it comes to novels is amnesia plots. Amnesia, snowbound and babies have to be my favourite romantic plot devices; but The Shadow of Your Smile isn't exactly a romance novel. While Eli gets the chance to reromance his wife, this book also contains the stories of how Noelle's family members and friends react to her amnesia; how it brings some of them together and pushes others apart. This novel reminded me of a modern day family saga, a Christian version of a Barbara Delinsky novel, where the reactions of family, friends and an entire town are detailed in relation to a dramatic event. In The Shadow of Your Smile we not only witness how Eli and Noelle come to reconcile their relationship, but also how their son, Kyle, a new cop, reacts to the incident that caused his mother's amnesia and his relationship with his sister's best friend, Emma. Emma's mother is also heavily involved in the events in this book, as not only Noelle's best friend but in her dangerously close relationship to Eli.
That said, I did feel a bit disorientated when I first began reading The Shadow of Your Smile. It was as if I'd been dropped right into the middle of Deep Haven and Eli and Noelle's lives. It took a bit of adjusting to get used to all of the relationships and histories between the characters, and there were incidents in Eli and Noelle's lives that were vaguely mentioned several times and it took me a while to finally figure out what had happened to push them apart. I actually went online and looked up the other Deep Haven novels to see whether there had been a previous novel about this family and whether I was missing some important details about their lives. When I realised that all of the other books focused on completely different characters I started to wonder whether Susan had deliberately made The Shadow of Your Smile disorientating for the reader in order to make them sympathise with Noelle's amnesia. To be honest, I was as confused as Noelle was in the opening chapters of the novel, and this made reading the book an even more interesting experience. As I figured out the missing pieces of Noelle's life, so did Noelle. To any readers of the novel who may be confused to begin with, I urge you not to give up - this book is definitely worth all of the figuring out that you have to do!
However, there were some sections of the book that I didn't find quite so compelling. While Kyle and Emma's romance was sweet and endearing, it was also rather predictable. It was a nice side-story but as much as I tried, I never could really relate to Emma. I also had an issue with the fact that Kyle and his and Emma's fathers were all police officers and quite strong, manly characters; at times it seemed as if the author was trying to make working in the police force seem especially noble. While there are flashbacks and comments from Eli that stress that he doesn't think that a career in the police is worth the harm is can bring to a family, at other times the book almost glamorized police work and placed it on a pedestal. I know a couple of police officers and do respect their work, but I got a bit tired of the fact that all of the main characters in the book who had jobs were police officers. And considering how small a town Deep Haven seemed to be, there always seemed to be a lot drama and crime taking place. While some of the events in the story were necessary to bring the plot to where it stood at the start of the novel, I couldn't help but wonder whether the crime rate in Deep Haven was entirely typical. It was one of those experiences where you're reading a book and find yourself wondering, "Could anything else possibly happen to these poor characters?"
Despite my misgivings with the level of drama in this book, Susan May Warren also made me truly care about her characters. I finished reading this book on Christmas Day and was dabbing at my tears as Eli remembered his daughter's accident. While this book had its flaws and didn't have that special something that pushed its rating up to a 9 or 10, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable read. And while I will admit that this was an easy novel to breeze through in a couple of days, it had so much food for thought. It's not possible to come away from this novel without musing over some point or another. I will definitely be going back and reading more of the Deep Haven books, and encourage fans of family sagas and contemporary fiction to start with The Shadow of Your Smile and do the same.
My Foolish Heart (another book in the Deep Haven series) was my first introduction to Susan May Warren. I couldn't get enough of it. So I was thrilled when I learned that The Shadow of Your Smile was coming out. I was not disappointed!
Eli and Noelle's marriage is falling apart when Noelle is in a serious car accident. When she comes out of her coma, she thinks she is back in college . . . remembering neither her husband nor her three children nor anything that's happened in the last twenty years. It may be the second chance that Eli and Noelle desperately need.
Sounds pretty good, right?! Well, throw in a secondary plot (or really a second primary plot) featuring Eli and Noelle's son and a hometown girl running away from her past, and it's doubly good!
Warren weaves the two stories together beautifully. Since much of the tragedy in their lives is shared, it doesn't come off as two separate stories, but rather as two stories that are closely linked. Themes of forgiveness, faith, and second chances make this an emotional read. By the end, I was a complete mess . . . in the best way!
There's a part in the book describing a person's last minutes before death and they begin describing what is happening to them and say something along the lines of hearing the joy of heaven. That part of the book was not a major part of the storyline, but I got chills and could hear a song running through my head that made me think of the joy of heaven. It was just so realistic to me. Anything that can give me chills and actually HEAR something (that isn't there) is pretty awesome writing!
Susan May Warren does everything right with this book . . . the characters, the writing, the emotional punch. I wasn't ready for the book to end when it did. [5 stars]
Thanks to LitFuse Publicity, Tyndale House, and Net Galley for providing a free review copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.
What if you woke up in a hospital room. The last you remember, you were leaving college for the day. But the grizzly man across the room claims to be your husband. He says you have two boys, the youngest getting ready to graduate high school. And then the nurse makes you look in the mirror.
Such was the world of Noelle Hueston, the result of a convenience store hold-up, where the robber had murdered the clerk. Noelle had managed to escape that deadly situation, but had slipped on ice, and hit her head. Now she had lost twenty-five years of her life.
Noelle ultimately decides to let her "husband", Eli, take her home. She slowly begins to piece together the missing years of her life. She had been an art student in college. Did she still paint? Her two sons, strangers. Could she learn to love them? Why was there an empty bedroom in their house? What had she been doing, returning from a city hours away during a snow storm? And why had Eli known nothing about her trip that day?
And what about Eli? He is patient with her but she senses their lives had drifted apart.
Eli finally decides to tell her about their daughter, Kelsey, murdered by by a young man in a robbery. Noelle, of course, has no emotional tie to the daughter but Eli is wracked with guilt. Eli had been the sheriff at the time. The killer was a man he had stopped but had let go on because he knew the kid, and trusted him. If Eli had checked in with the department, he would have found out that the kid was wanted.
Noelle and Eli had dealt with their pain within themselves, in their own ways, and they had drifted apart. Noelle, unknown to Eli, had rented an artist studio. Eli had frequently secluded himself in his ice house, fishing.
Noelle is now determined to make a new commitment to this man, to make this marriage work. Then the revelation that Eli has been spending way too much time at a widow's house hits her like a brick and she flees. She can't make this marriage work! She'll make a new life of her own, as an artist.
Eli and deputy son Kyle realize that Noelle saw the murdering robber and he could be after her. They've got to find her before he does.
Warren says in an afterward note that she had had dreams _ and then married, had four children, then began writing books. What if you could reset your life? What if you could keep parts of your life and cut out others? What would you do?
Having read an article about a man who had fallen and lost memory of twenty-five years of his life, she began to explore the idea of starting over. Can broken relationships be healed over? Could a painful past now be worked through? Can love win out?
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is very thought provoking. The plot has a great combination of attempts at restoring romance and relationship, and a little suspense. The reader shares in the struggles of several people trying to deal with Kelsey's murder (including her friend who had actually been the one scheduled to work that day).
There is a discussion guide which would make this a great choice for reading groups.
I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.