Y'all. This book. THIS BOOK. I finished it on Wednesday night, in bed, late. Had to stay up until I read the last page. Haven't yet been able to pick up a new book. I'm still living with these characters, still recovering from and savoring the journey this book took me on. It was intense and emotional and beautiful. So sad. And so uplifting. And so raw and real.
I want my writing to do to a reader what this book did to me.
Lovely, Dark and Deep is about a girl's slow and painful recovery after a tragedy. Wren has moved from her busy life with her mom in Manhattan to a cold, isolated existence with her dad in the Maine woods. She's pulled away from the friends she had before, pushed away the people who say that she should be moving beyond her grief by now, months after the night that changed her life forever. She spent three months after the car accident that killed her boyfriend not speaking at all, and she still retreats into a deep, comforting silence whenever the world gets too hard, too intrusive, too real.
The book follows Wren through this painful first winter after the accident, as she wavers between wanting to hide forever and being slowly pulled out of her shell of grief by new friends and people who care about her. When she meets Cal, a guy who's facing a struggle of his own, they start to find solace in each other—but she has to decide whether opening up again is worth the possibility of pain that relationships bring.
The language in this book was so evocative and beautiful. Amy McNamara is a poet, and it shows in her prose. Every word counts. The writing in Lovely, Dark and Deep perfectly portrays Wren's emotional state. When she's far away, retreating, being silent, you feel that muffled grief in every sentence. When her pain pierces the surface, you feel that, too. I'm not exaggerating when I say I read most of this book with a tightness in my chest, almost like I was experiencing Wren's emotions along with her. It's part of the reason why I couldn't put it down—I needed the emotional relief I hoped was coming for Wren.
I also have to mention the setting. I saw, so vividly, the world Wren lived in, especially the woods where she runs—woods that are, in the words of Robert Frost that she only partially remembers, "lovely, dark and deep." Snow blankets those woods like grief blankets Wren. The ground is often rocky and treacherous. Icy snow cuts at Wren's ankles. I'm working on a book in which setting is hugely important, as well, and I read McNamara's book almost like a master-class in physical description and emotional resonance.
Have I gushed enough yet? Do you need to hear more about Cal, the kind, stubborn (and cute) love interest dealing with a loss that's the same as and also different from Wren's? Should I mention that for all the sadness in this book, it's also filled with hope?
Needless to say: Read Lovely, Dark and Deep. I know I'll be thinking about it for a long time to come.