The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halverson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"My fingertip steered the hour hand backward, back to that morning, when this time I felt Joe stretching awake, kissed the soft hair on his chest, grabbed his warm shoulder, said, 'Stay. Don't go. Stay here with us.'"
This is, by far, one of the most introspective, emotional, moving novels I've read. The overall story line is heartbreaking, and the message it sends about life, family, love, and forgiveness are messages that will forever change you.
Ella has found a perfect life for herself in Elbow with Joe and his two children. For three years, she loves Annie and Zach as if they are her own children; they are her children, in every way that counts. When Joe tragically dies, however, Ella is left wallowing in sadness, in the shadow of her life left behind. However, her life is upturned even more drastically when Paige, the children's biological mother, steps back into the picture. Ella is left trying to recover from the loss of her true love while also fighting the biggest battle of her life--the battle for her children.
I am not a mother, but Halverson paints this tragedy with such depth, I felt every ounce of Ella's pain. The writing itself is stunning, perfect imagery flowing to paint the setting. I love that the setting is a huge part of this book, and that family history also comes into play.
Ella is a strong character, not only because she is able to survive the horrors thrown in front of her, but because she does it with honesty, humanity, and eventually, grace. I admired her because she makes choices that are right, not easy. She does things most of us would not be strong enough to do.
This book also brought up the topic of mental illness. I like how it twisted my opinion about Paige, giving me more information to eventually understand her on a deeper level.
Halverson's book is one of my all-time favorites. I am so glad a friend recommended this book to me because it is one of those books that will stay with you for years and years to come due to its writing and overall impact.
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