Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: Then and Always by Dani Atkins

Release date: May 20, 2014
Author info: Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 320
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
For fans of One Day, What Alice Forgot, and the hit film Sliding Doors, comes an absorbing and surprising debut novel about a young woman who, after an accident, gets a second chance at life . . . just not in one she remembers.

Rachel Wiltshire has everything she’s ever wanted: a close group of friends, a handsome boyfriend, and acceptance to the journalism program at her top-choice college. But one fateful evening, tragedy tears her world apart. 

Five years later, Rachel returns home for the first time to celebrate her best friend’s wedding. Still coping with her grief, she can’t stop thinking about the bright future she almost had, if only that one night had gone differently. But when a sudden fall lands her in the hospital, Rachel wakes to find that her life has completely changed. Now she has her dream job as a writer and a stylish apartment, but the people she loves most are not the way she remembers them. Unable to trust her own recollections, Rachel tries to piece together what really happened, and not even she can predict the astonishing truth.
Then and Always is one of those books that just captivated me from the moment I read the synopsis a couple of weeks ago until I turned the last page. The premise of the book is so interesting and I knew I wanted this desperately the moment I read it, but little did I know that I would read it with my heart clenching and finish with tears streaming down my face, heartbroken and wholly satisfied at the same time.

Even though I was desperate to read this, I was surprised by how quickly I became engrossed in the story. A group of friends going to dinner seems so mundane and everyday, but the writing is tinged with foreboding, with a kind of omniscient narration from Rachel that tells you (even if you hadn't read the synopsis) that something is going to happen, and it's likely not going to be good. When the worst does happen, even though I expected it, I was surprised at how emotional I was. I had already come to care for the characters--and I was only a chapter in. That sense of foreboding, now touched by a deep sadness, continues until Rachel ends up in the hospital yet again--this time coming out of an accident with a memory that doesn't fit in with her world.

After that, there's such a confusion of emotions. There's happiness, because everything in Rachel's life is so much better. Yet, Rachel is desperately trying to get back to that old life. It's heartbreaking, because even she is aware of how much better things are, but she's terrified that something she believes to be so true is false. It's such a fascinating idea to explore, and one I haven't seen done in stories involving amnesia. Rachel has memories of a completely different five years--not no memories, but different ones.

So many things are better--yet one thing is similarly bad: Her best friend, Jimmy, though alive, is not a part of her life. It's only because of what happened in the memories Rachel has that she is able to truly appreciate Jimmy, though. She's spent five years mourning his loss, and suddenly he's alive and well, in her hospital room. How do you react to that? How do you believe that your reality is wrong, even if you desperately want to?

I loved Then and Always. It's a highly emotional story that lulls you into a sense of comfort, only to rip away that comfort and force you to face reality. Even when you're sobbing you'll realize just how wonderful that heartbreak is. I've read so many books recently in which I never could care about the characters, but Then and Always hooked me from the first chapter and still hasn't let go.

About the author:

Dani was born and brought up in Cockfosters, London, whose chief claim to fame is that it’s at the end of the Piccadilly Tube Line.

This served her well for commuting into the city, where from the age of 18 she worked in a succession of secretarial positions in companies as diverse as a BMW car dealership to the BBC. Dani spent her two hour commute avidly reading and dreamed that one day she would become an author herself.

When her two children grew up and left home, Dani set about turning this dream into reality and devoted her time to writing. She now lives in a rural Hertfordshire cottage with her husband, a crazy border collie dog and two geriatric cats.

FRACTURED (THEN AND ALWAYS) is her first novel.

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