“But no one ever ends at the ending. After the lovers kiss and the last page is turned, their lives barrel on messily towards the grave and maintaining some kind of happy ending is an ongoing battle. If you don’t keep that in mind, happiness will slip through your fingers like water.”
Baptiste is a therapist who lives on a houseboat (named Candice, who is a character as much as the living breathing people), which charmed me because isn’t there something about houseboats and water that would soothe most people rather than stuffy offices? He helps others, he lives a life of contentment until Amandine steps on Candice. Soon the patient is asking questions and opening his heart, shaking up his simple, routine life. One rich with clients and his cafe, his boat. We know he was born on a train as the story opens, and it’s heartbreaking for both child and mother what happens. He knows so little about his birth mother, and while he is lucky to have loving parents who took him in, there has always been a hunger, a wanting for the past. “When you have such sparse information, too much weight is given to the little you have.” To then wonder about the small things, what was her favorite color? Her personality like? All the little things so many of us that know our parents take for granted, a void for Baptiste.
Sophie is his wonderful young friend, but who is she? What is she to him? Young men are jealous of Sophie and Baptiste’s intimate relationship. It’s strange how she mothers him in her own way too. Misunderstandings could just as much be a title, such a human thing to misinterpret the situations in our friends and strangers lives, in our own. The person anchored in his hungry heart is Amandine, who wants more than simple love. She wants connection, and that isn’t the easiest thing for anyone to find in such a world greedy for what passes as happiness. Is allowing ourselves to be consumed by one person the real path to genuine love? Merging souls so deeply that we don’t know where one begins and the other ends? Amandine is intense, mysterious but she is also frustratingly complex. Something is happening to Baptiste, there is so much confusion circling his life, people wrong about who he loves, about his relationships with others. None worse than the slippage of his own memories and mind. People seem to disappear as much as some memories fade. How do we hold on to people we love when love migrates? How do we find the bravery to chose love when illness is chasing us, shortening our days, stealing who we are?
The story quietly renders the heart to open, and bleed slowly with so much sadness amidst love, endings within beginnings. Real love isn’t the formula in typical love stories- not family love nor romantic love. We are all twisted up in misunderstandings, the confusion of our choices, our missteps, how the whims of fate alters how we chose to go forward. You cannot truly love any person or thing without exposing yourself to the elements of grief, loss. Everything we feel, hold dear is temporary. Love is sacred because it is fragile, you jump on the creature’s back with no idea where you will go and how it will end, if you will be discarded, wounded, eaten by it. So many of us try to play it safe and make choices ‘for the better of our beloved’ and what damage we do. Love is waking to the possibility of catastrophic wounds everyday knowing anything can happen to your children, your partner, your family and friends.
King’s writing is gorgeous and though the story can confuse with who is doing the telling, once the reader finds a quiet place to sink in, they will begin to figure out which character is narrating as it changes. I feel tender after finishing the novel, happy and sorry for everyone, though it is fiction- these are realistic circumstances. Well done.
Publication Date in the USA: December 6, 2016