Five minutes in, I knew I was going to love this audiobook. It is not always an easy story to listen to. Then again, when did Erin Zak write an easy story? A huge part of why I love her books is how well she writes vulnerable characters and emotional pain. I know when I start reading or in this case listening, that my heart will cry at least half the time.
Jackie Mitchell is a successful lesbian romance author living in St Petersburg, Florida. Susan Weber is an unhappy wife in an abusive marriage in Savannah, Georgia. They’d never have met if not for Beth. A spunky sixteen-year-old, Beth started out looking for her birth mom and found a lot more than that.
The premise of this story feels a bit far-fetched, yet it works. I have no idea what it’s like to be adopted or to adopt a baby (I adopted my daughter but she’s my wife biological kid, it’s a very different situation) or to not raise your child, and I have no idea whether Zak nailed that part or not, whether it’s realistic at all. For me as a reader, however, on the emotions front, it delivered.
This audiobook came out recently but the book was released a couple of years ago. I didn’t read it then, and the reviews posted at the time are a little all over the place, which is always interesting. It seems that I enjoyed it a lot more than most of my favourite reviewers. I’m not sure if it’s because Zak’s books really speak to me or because of the narration. I absolutely loved Lula Larkin’s narration. I didn’t even care that when the characters were supposed to whisper, they didn’t. The story is told in alternate chapters in first person from the points of view of the three main characters and each voice is perfect.
Because the story is also told from Beth’s POV, it gives the whole book a YA feel, which I liked. Beth’s arc is extremely sweet and a good counterpoint to Susan’s back-and-forths.
I feel that Erin Zak’s books get better and better (I’m still catching up on her earlier ones, it’s the theme of the season), and the writing in this one isn’t without flaws. There are a lot of weak knees, aching hands and smooth voices. Susan isn’t always consistent, she knows Jackie’s attracted to her a moment, seems completely unaware the next, and there a few other inconsistencies throughout the novel. The story seems to lose steam towards the end, and the ending itself is a tad too convenient and cheesy. Despite all this, I honestly didn’t mind too much. I liked these three extremely endearing women, I wanted them to be happy and that’s what I got.