We have our public side. The one we bring out on holidays. That encourages us to smile when we see a newborn baby, or congratulate a rival on their win over us.
And we have the private side.
The one that feels slightly less confident than we allow ourselves to appear. The one that shudders when no one is looking, or holds internal grudges either with someone else, or ourself.
Neither side is perfect. And neither side is wrong. They are two halves of a greater whole. They are the foundation of what makes us human.
In 2011 I read a book called Beautiful Disaster by the very talented Jamie McGuire, and I loved it. As a matter of fact, that particular review won me an IBBA. (So you can see why it would hold a special place in my heart.) But what I remember about that review the most is NOT my rant about how wonderfully damaged the book was, but my rather wordy admission of aggressive codependency in its first few paragraphs.
And while there will be no retraction of those deep dark secrets I laid bare for all to read, I will say that after reading Walking Disaster (Beautiful Disaster’s companion novel) I understand my own words just a little bit better. That what people see, is not always what people are. That sometimes we hurt, so that others can smile. That rage is not always built from anger, but is sometimes a product of promise. And more importantly…that love can’t change you, but it might…at it’s very core…HELP you.
It would be a bold-faced lie if I told you I liked Walking Disaster as much as I did Beautiful Disaster, but at the same time…I would be neglectful if I didn’t say it changed my opinion of a few of the people who lived amongst its pages.
Walking Disaster, for all intents and purposes, IS Beautiful Disaster. The same major elements happen (the fights, the fire, the trip to Vegas) there are pages of duplicate conversations (“If this was poker night at Sig Tau, I would have kept it. I can’t rob your brothers the first time I meet them.”) and all of the same characters make all of the same appearances (Abby, Travis, America, Shepley…) BUT while it IS the same story, it is also NOT. (How’s that for disorienting.)
The NOT is what changed my mind. (I guess this is the part where I should explain huh?)
In BD Travis was the A-typical Alpha male. He slept around. He solved problems with his fist. And he pretty much defined the word overprotective. But in WD, the “obvious” found in BD wasn’t so obvious anymore. The actions I first saw as arrogant, or selfish quickly became understandable or at the very least reeked of vulnerability.
Hearing (and ultimately understanding) the world in which Travis resided (both physically and mentally) became something much more… endearing (I guess you could say.)
I always loved Travis. I won’t pretend not to, but there were several times during Abby’s pontificating that I worried about Travis’s self-destructive nature. Where it came from, why it was always aimed at those he loved the most. WD answered all of those questions for me. Even more…it made me kinda/sorta dislike Abby.
Why? Because torture is sometimes blind to those doing the torturing. (You will understand that statement more if you decide to read the book.)
Now…I could keep going, but I have a feeling I’d end up sounding more like a fortune cookie than a book reviewer, so I’ll end my rant with a few very blatant thoughts about Travis’s side of life.
1. While it was not the best thing I’ve ever read (and Travis’s constant use of the word bagged left a bad taste in my mouth) I thoroughly enjoyed the option of reading two different halves of a whole.
2. The writing was a little stumbly in the beginning (like McGuire was having are hard time finding her footing) but pushing through paid off, and I found myself a little teary all over again.
3. Your perceptions will change. Be prepared for it. Especially when it comes to the jaw dropping epilogue that was NOT a part of BD.
And last but not least…kudos to McGuire for accepting the challenge so many of her readers threw at her. Much like Beautiful Disaster it will be a love/hate relationship, but you took your characters by the horns and morphed them into lessons of mass destruction. Well done.
Sometimes it’s nice to take a peek inside the mind of a complicated man. This is one of those times.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either.” -Aesop