CW: Very graphic descriptions of rape and torture during Operation Condor in Chile under the Pinochet regime and the effects of PTSD on the survivors; the MC is the victim of a hate crime
I have waited for this book for almost an year now, so ofcourse I had very high expectations from it. But after the beautiful experiences I had reading Larks and Finches, I was confident that the author would mesmerize me again with her words and I’m so glad she managed to do just that.
I have very vivid memories of crying buckets while reading the previous two books in this series, so I was very much prepared to do the same this time around. But maybe I have changed in the past year and a half, because while this book is still a tough, emotional, beautiful read, I ended up crying only at a few moments. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that there was not a single moment in the book where I wanted to put it down. Once I started reading, I knew I had to go on and I ended up staying up very very late in the night (or morning) to finish it. It horrified me, broke my heart, and then mended it with care and I can’t really ask anything more from a novel.
The author’s writing is mesmerizing and poetic as always, bringing to life the deep emotions being felt by the characters and making us feel connected to them. The author is absolutely wonderful in making us believe the love that characters feel for each other, and the impact they leave on us is very long lasting. But she is also brutal in describing the atrocities that were committed during the Pinochet regime in Chile and how this trauma has affected the survivors for decades after and through generations. It’s this narrative of beautiful relationships in a world that is oppressive and torturous, and how characters manage to find a way forward in their lives that makes this book (and this series) so affecting.
One thing you can be sure of in Suanne’s books, you will feel deeply for every single character, and it’s no different here. The Tholet’s are a family who have survived unbelievable atrocities which makes them very close to each other in their own ways and I absolutely adored the dynamic between them. They bickered, they argued, they broke down and shut off but when it mattered, they all had each other’s backs. Cleon and Penny suffer so much, leaving behind their homes and lives when their community turns against them on multiple occasions, but they always support and believe in each other and the family they nurture is just beautiful.
I can’t even describe what I felt about Jude. So much of his life is defined by what happened to his parents and then what happened to him, that it was a wonder how he was able to survive. And then life throws him another curve ball and I wasn’t sure how adversely he would be affected. But then comes Tej into his life like a whirlwind and I was again captivated by the development of their romance. As another child survivor of war, Tej and Jude complement each other perfectly and it was a joy watching them open up and fall in love. Jude’s sardonic wit and Tej’s eternal charm make for some lovely moments within a very tough tale full of uncertainty, loss and grief.
There are also some fun side characters who bring levity to the story, like Jude’s sister Serena and her Italian boyfriend or Jude’s best friend Hewan and her partner. Even Tej’s sister Mirelle’s dog is absolutely adorable. But it’s the resolution of one of the most intense arcs in the story which brings in cameos from the previous books in the series that completely blew me away and reminded me again why I love these books and characters so much.
To conclude, I firstly apologize for not saying anything coherent in my review because I just don’t have words. I’m completely in love with the story and characters and writing and I would highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys family sagas and romance for the ages. However, make sure you are prepared for some very very tough subjects that the author tackles sensitively but they will probably wreck you emotionally and leave you a sobbing mess. But I promise they are worth experiencing.