Reviewed by Kelly Allen
Jamie, an adventure guide from America, returns to Bali, a year after being involved in a bomb attack. Whilst there the second time around, she discovers a new love for the place that originally left her scarred and full of nightmares. This love develops through the community spirit amongst the people and families, a shared loss between herself and her host, Nyoman as well as an unlikely friendship with a young boy and his dog.
Not only does Jamie find a sense of peace, she finally begins to love the place that – merely a year ago – was the centre of so much loss and devastation. To complete her journey and to gain a sense of closure, Jamie attempts to reconnect with a man called Gabe; the man who saved her life that fateful night. All that remains for Jamie to truly discover is whether Gabe will ever forgive her for leaving after the accident, without even saying goodbye.
When I began reading this book, I didn’t think it would really grab me in any way, since I have never experienced the tragedies explored within the story. I was unsure whether I would be able to connect with the characters and their experiences; however, when the narrative shifted from Jamie to Gabe, taking the story back to the year before, it all fell into place. Gabe’s character is so well written; a broken man trying to find his way in the world who simply gives his heart to a girl in the wake of disaster.
I really felt the raw emotions and experiences of Gabe and his back story before the bombing. Even though parts of it left me sobbing, his son’s tragic tale was beautifully written and woven through the story of the bombing. For me, this meant having to take lengthy breaks between chapters to recover from the emotional effects. Between Gabe’s personal heartbreak and the tragedy of the bombing, it was a lot to take on board.
The characters are all well written and engaging, but in particular Gabe and Jamie’s best friend and boss Larson stood out for me; their pain and strength left me in awe of them. The strength of Jamie and her unwillingness to give in to her fears was a real strong element within the book. Even when she hoists herself up a pole in a competition to prove women are as capable as men, she just doesn’t give up. This sense of strength made her character stand out because it is coupled with her vulnerability, especially around Gabe.
The overall sense of environment was really strong within the book too; the sights and smells of the different places Jamie and Gabe visit stand out throughout the entire story. I loved the community vibe and the scenes of ‘sisterhood’ when the girls go for a secluded swim. I also loved the sense of calm in certain parts of the book, opposing any sense of war or violence. This helped me appreciate how surreal it must be to live in a place like Bali and then have it torn from beneath you; shocking and almost unbelievable.
The ending is fairly open also, which gives you a chance to put your own final stamp on what happens between Gabe and Jamie in the end. I liked this as I had my own version after reading half of the book. I think that if you are a sensitive person, it is best to take your time with this story, give your heart enough strength to cope with the tragic moments, but also feed it with the beautiful moments between the characters and places.
A tough read for emotional people like me, but well worth it!
Ellen Sussman's Website