by Emily Belden
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date: December 30, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie
Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it.
Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not.
But when her quest reveals a shocking secret, Charlotte is forced to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at a new life arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart.
The writing is very tight, and the voice is super-personable and engaging. You feel like you know Charlotte, and while she has some quirks that will make you want to shake her, or at the very least direct her to your therapist, she is someone who is very relatable. Like many romantic comedies, this story feels more “romantic elements” than outright romance, and again, this comes with the territory of what we’re dealing with as the premise: the heroine is a widow whose husband’s ashes show up on her doorstep, and she’s really never dealt with her grief in his sudden death. That sorta sucks out all the romance to be had.
Still, as a reader, you can relate to a character who is clearly doing the best she can with an untenable situation. It’s not enough that her husband’s ashes showed up, but her monster mother-in-law is back, trying to once again hijack the situation in order to have the resolution she desires rather than considering what his young widow may also desire.
What this book does exceptionally well is show how messy and complicated grief is, especially in how everyone deals with grief in their own way. Even when you’re wanting to shake Charlotte for some very unproductive behavior, you get it. If you’ve ever been on the losing end of grief in a big way, you understand the quirky weird stuff people do to just get through. And this story shows just how stuck Charlotte has been these last five years and how receiving her husband’s ashes has opened up her life to consider the things she’s doing to close herself off from family, friends, and even her roommate. It gives her a chance to start over and process her grief in a more effective way. Something few people are able to do in the early days when the grief is fresh and overwhelming.
The love interest Brian is wonderful, but he’s a bit of a second fiddle in the plot, in my opinion. And the monster mother-in-law is revealed to have done some of her stunts for “the greater good” which felt weird and off. I’m not sure I entirely bought into the premise of why she did what she did to her young new daughter-in-law. But again, everyone deals with grief in their own way and we’re all doing the best we can. That is pretty much the summary of this book.
It’s a bit like Kristan Higgins’ chick lit type books: it’s funny, it’s poignant, but it’s not always an easy read (and for me, not automatic keepers because I have no desire to necessarily read books like this a second time. I’ve already been through the wringer.) It’s a good solid read, but I think you have to be in the mood for that kind of story and know what you’re getting into.