Most of you already know this, (it’s no secret) but I spend a significant amount of time reading big books. Now, I don’t mean “big” in the literal sense (500+pages – though I read a lot of those too) but more in the plot/character/drama sense of the word. I love diving into worlds where people battle dragons, run from serial killers or talk to oracles. Big EPIC books if you will! Which is why it might come as a surprise to some of you to see me reviewing THIS novel.
“Emmy & Oliver” by Robin Benway is NOT a “big book” (some of you might actually call that an understatement) and that’s OK. As a matter of fact…that’s MORE than ok.
And here is why…
Sometimes it’s nice to read an entire story. A contemporary story. Where the focus is NOT on a dying planet/society or being chosen for a quest that demands you leave readers hanging. Sometimes…it’s nice to be still, and focus on growth and emotion.
Contemporary novels still boast drama (in this particular case it’s the kidnapping of a small child who returns 10 years later) but they also offer perspective (and the occasional sage advice.) They are about people, their assimilation to life as it evolves and revolves around them, and more importantly…it’s about emotion.
Emotion is the glue that holds EVERY novel together, big OR small, and Benway knows how to use that glue to her characters advantage.
So here is the breakdown.
Emmy and Oliver are what every great love story is made of…history. They were friends as small children, and had a unique connection. (Which – fyi – is elaborated on in short flashback chapters that are smartly titled things like: The Note, The Light, The Team.) The problem is, Oliver is kidnapped one day after school and doesn’t return for more than 10 years. The gap in time changes them both. So does the realization that your loved ones aren’t always safe. THIS knowledge effects the reactions and responses of everyone. ESPECIALLY Emmy and Oliver’s parents.
This is where the plot depth (found inside the novel) comes from…the natural progression of life.
How does a parent get to know a child that has been absent for 10 years?
How does a teenager communicate their feelings of inadequacy?
How do parents learn to accept the independence their children desire?
It’s these questions and more that contribute to the simplistic beauty that IS “Emmy & Oliver.”
It’s in the breakdowns.
“You could have drowned! my mom cried. “You could have hit your head! You could have gotten caught in a riptide, oh my God!”
It’s in the revelations.
“Not then! Now! All of this!” – he waved an arm toward his house, toward the daily struggle of trying to return home after ten years somewhere else – “this is all my fault!”
It’s in the ability to forgive.
“They were both crying together, and *** rested his hands on the back of Oliver’s head and held him tight.”
This story feels REAL. The characters inside this story feel real, which makes the BOOK feel real. Special. Important.
Benway does an amazing job of balancing past pain and future outlook making Emmy and Oliver’s story a lovely one, one that I think a few parents might benefit from reading as well.
Now (disclaimer time) this book isn’t going to be for everyone. Those of you that thrive on complicated romantic entanglements…this isn’t going to be your cup of tea. (Emmy and Oliver’s relationship is fairly straight forward.) But for those of you that enjoy novels full of heart and realistic sentiment (ala: Sarah Dessen/Chelsea Fine “Sophie & Carter“) YOU have found your next read.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: It’s never to late to start over.