[Edit: October 23rd 2019] Living is one of my favorite books this year, probably in my Top 5. I wouldn’t have read it again so soon since I remembered a lot. Which, as you’ll know if you have read my reviews before, is rather telling and totally unusual. Yet when the audiobook came out, narrated by TJ Richards, I couldn’t wait. Read my review for the audiobook here.
Let’s face it: I’m strong but I break easily. Depression, loss and suicide are not easy topics to read about. But my faith in Lise Gold and her ability to tackle them tactfully allowed me to give this book a try.
Here’s the thing, though. While they’re the reason Ella and Cam meet, these themes are not the whole story. They are like some sort of undercurrent, always there but not always felt, sometimes close to the surface, sometimes far away, forgotten. Just like in real life.
There’s something about Lise Gold’s books, some sort of inherent hope that makes even the most seemingly desperate situations feel like they can be overcome. Ella lost her twin sister to an accident two years ago. Her life has felt meaningless and empty since, and she’s convinced she can’t pretend anymore. Cam rescues her right in time. Not only does she take care of her, she doesn’t care that she’s famous, which makes Ella feel even safer, and, later on, loved.
There are many layers to this novel. It’s a reflection on mental health and how important getting help and finding the right therapist is but it’s also a celebrity romance, with Ella being a famous Hollywood actress who has to deal with an almost complete lack of privacy. And she has to come out at some point (btw, I’d love to see a movie with all the actresses who have come out in lesfic these last few years!).
I love that Ella is totally socially awkward, never having lived a normal life — she’s been in show-business since she was a toddler—, and is as nervous at the idea of meeting Cam’s best friend as said best friend is at meeting her, for example. There are small instances of this awkwardness that make her character even more endearing.
There are two things I consistently love in every book by Lise Gold I have read so far. The first one is the characters. They’re all very sweet and real, and I get invested in their well-being very quickly. It’s very simple, really: I want them to be happy. The second thing is the way you get to travel all over the world. The way she describes landscapes and colors and sounds. I didn’t feel it as strongly with this one in part because I’ve been to Los Angeles and it wasn’t as new and exciting to me as Norway or Thailand (I had the same feeling with French Summer, obviously), but also, probably, because the characters’ journey is more on the inside, this time. They are not crossing an ocean or moving from one continent to another. Yet the changes are there all the same.
As well as dealing with sensitive themes, which could have made for a sad and difficult book but didn’t, and celebrity, this is, in the end, mostly a love story between two women who meet in extraordinary circumstances yet don’t allow these circumstances to dictate their relationship nor their lives. It’s about coming back to life and all that’s beautiful in the world. I don’t always understand the titles authors choose for their books but this one is exactly right.