I thought Larks would be my favorite book of this year but woah was I absolutely wrong… This book is unbelievably profound and touching and evoked so many feelings in me, I can’t even describe what I felt. One thing I do know, Finches is going to be one of my most all time favorite books ever because I really don’t know if I’ve read a better book.
Geno is a twin, closely connected to his brother all his life but recently feels them drifting apart after their mother’s death. But what happened to Geno in the first couple of chapters just broke me. Harrowing and unspeakable things are done to him during a forty four hour ordeal which ends in his brother’s suicide and father’s heart broken death. His physical recovery from almost the brink of death takes weeks and months but the psychological toll is too much to even read about, let alone experienced by this boy.
We met Stef at the end of Larks during his chance encounter with Javier. Stef is an art therapist who specializes in the most distressing cases of rape and abuse and it was so heartening to read about his work. He is a wonderful compassionate person with an unending well of creative ideas that he uses to help his clients deal with the most horrifying experiences of their lives. He is thoughtful, he is gentle but he is also resolute and I can’t even imagine the mental strength he has to deal with everything.
Jav has given up on his escorting and is now a full time writer but he is also lonely, and finally wants to find love. His chemistry with Stef is pretty much awesome from the first meeting but they are both vulnerable and have never really been in meaningful relationships before. Their slow burn relationship is just too beautiful to read about and they complement each other perfectly. Jav is uncertain about finding true love on his first try but Stef is always there with his unconditional love to prove him wrong. Stef is very adamant about not bringing his work home but it’s not always possible and when he can’t handle it all anymore, Jav is right there to unburden him. Their quiet moments, the silences, their conversations, the understanding they have about each other’s sexual limitations – it’s all so wonderful and I think one of the most fervent relationships I’ve ever read about.
This might be about Jav and Stef’s love but the heart of this book is Geno. He is violated in so many ways but his journey of picking up the pieces of his life and finding himself again is full of pain but also indomitable strength. He may have lost everyone in his family but he slowly starts forming relationships, first with a few guys in college and then with survivors like him at the Exodus Project. His relationship with Stef starts off in a professional manner but its develops into so much more deeper, almost brotherly love. Even Jav can’t help but admire Geno for his tenacity and endurance. Every single character is well fleshed out with backstories and all of them are essential parts of Geno’s journey of survival.
The author’s writing is evocative and emotional and utterly devastating but I wouldn’t have it any other way. She brings out the best in the characters and intense emotions in the readers and I laughed and cried and felt heartbroken and also hopeful. Her research into survivor’s guilt, their reactions and triggers, art therapy and certain historical events is very thorough and it reflects in every word on every page. We learn so much about the survivors – what they endure, what they feel and how they survive. It also teaches us to be more compassionate and thoughtful because we have no idea what anyone has been through. The author also leaves us with lots of questions – about the best and worst of humanity, what will a person do to survive, how do we move on when we never get answers to the questions that are eating at us, about the silenced demographic of male rape survivors whose stories we never get to hear because of our society’s norms on masculinity, and ultimately, what are the little ways in which we can help.
This story might start with a basement of horrors but its a beautiful tale of love, loss, survival, strength, friendship and family. Reading the book will put your heart through a wringer but you will end it feeling a little better and hopeful. It can be read as a standalone but knowing more about Jav’s backstory in Larks definitely enriched my experience. It doesn’t matter what your favorite genre is, I feel this is a book everyone should read because it might just make us a better person. It will definitely make us want to be one.