Again, Marie Sexton reduces me to an emotional wreck by wrenching my heart out and then sending it soaring with joy at the end.Maybe I'm just a sucker for the stories about the socially inept cases finding their dream, but the insight and empathy that Marie Sexton brings to her writing is second to none.
Owen is a recluse, socially awkward, has an amputated arm from an amniotic band at birth and stutters. I mean, what more could go wrong with the poor guy? oh yes, a mother from hell and the stuff nightmares are made of! He has problems coping with people's reactions to his arm which makes him feel uncomfortable in company, not knowing how to deal with it. Has never come to terms with his disability."And that’s what it was—a stump. Some people preferred the term “residual limb,” but to me, that didn’t do it justice. It was like changing the diagnosis of “shell shock” to “post-traumatic stress disorder.” As if adding more syllables to it could alter the truth of the situation. As if having a longer phrase could make my arm longer too."
Living alone in his flat his new neighbour moves in after the previous moved out leaving the piano behind. Owen used to lay in his flat listening to the music the old neighbour would play. It used to comfort him in a way. In the first chapter we already get a feeling for Owen. Lost and unloved, but a gentle soul with a heart, I just wanted to cuddle him immediately. We get a hint that his mother is a part of his problem, how big a part we learn later.
After about three weeks Owen gets a new neighbour. Nick is about as opposite as you can get to Owen. Confident, charasmatic, sexy, natural, basically everything that Owen is not. Nick treats him and his disability as if it weren't there to begin with, but Owen soons learn that Nick has a sister with the same syndrome, but the other arm. This makes Owen feel immediately a little more at ease. Owen meets Nick's sister June and also finds out that although she has the same disability she again is the total opposite to him."It was unnerving how much my life seemed to mirror June’s, and yet in every case, I had the dark, scary, nightmare version."
Then June has the idea to have piano lessons with Owen. Together they could play duets and make music. Nick starts to try and take Owen out and feels very comfortable with him, although in public Owen is still awkward. Everything now seems to be moving ahead for Owen, new friends, gaining more confidence everyday, he falls for Nick big style. Well, who couldn't. Nick made all of Owen's insecurities go away. "Standing there in his arms, I felt good. I relaxed against him, and he continued to hold me. He ran his hands up and down my back. He rocked me a little, almost as if we were dancing. I felt at peace. I felt whole and healthy and right."
However, Nick is not all that he seems and first appears to be. Hiding something and playing emotional tug-o-war with Owen. He keeps pulling back from him. After a wonderful Halloween night they go back to Owen's place and Nick drops his bomb shell of a revelation on Owen. At this point I lost the plot! My red wine and chocolate consumption shot through the roof. Sat on the sofa up to my neck in used tissues. I was a wreck. Drained!
Just when you think that Owen has a future someone he can depend on and love, the world is shattered once again. However, due to June, Nick's family and a good friend Nathan, Owen gets his head straight and fights for Nick. Nick has got as big a problem as Owen and he is not going to let this get between what they had felt for each other. There is fault on both sides, but this time the tables turn and it's Owen showing Nick the way!"You’ve wallowed in the guilt long enough. Yes, you made a mistake. But that doesn’t mean you have to punish yourself for the rest of your life. You deserve to be loved. And to be happy.” I kissed his forehead. “We both do"
Nicks parents are everything that Owen's aren't as well. Again we see how much family can really effect their children and their confidence in later life. Nick's parents come to visit for Thanksgiving and I could feel the warmth and love these guys had for their children. It was pure and unconditional. Owen felt this too and revelled in it. When Owen's parents came we get a completely different picture. His mother; domineering, overbearing, always complaining and worst of all blaming Owen for everything. Yes, I felt aggressive, protective and wanted to smack the woman for Owen.
Owen realises that if he is ever to be happy he first has to stand up to his mother. That he does and sends her packing. "Not anymore. It was over. Never again would I question myself because of her. I was free."
Then it's time to really get things sorted with Nick. With his new found confidence he wins Nick back for good."I’m glad I’m here too. You’re beautiful. Let’s both stop being so lonely."
And that for me was what this book was really about. Not being lonely.
WOW - to be honest I can't really put into words how this story got to me. Marie Sexton's writing for me is so full of feeling and empathy for her characters that you connect with their desperate situations immediatley. Feeling their hopelessness, sense of insecurity, thier fears and angst, but also thier joys and triumphs. Marie has the most incredible insight into social situations, behaviour and interaction, I keep asking myself whether she has ever experienced anything like this personally. To be able to write about these things with such a depth of perception and intuition bringing these feelings into words is a truly incredible thing. The plot in this story I found to be so well balanced, going from constant highs and lows, but not just an erratic roller-coaster of emotion. She takes you on a journey of Owen and Nick becoming constantly stronger, dealing with their problems and realisng that together, they are strong and everything will be just fine."A warmth that filled me from the inside out. It was believing I was normal, and knowing I was desired. It was the newfound hope that my life really could be more. But more than anything, it was about trusting him. About feeling safe and cherished and utterly at peace with the man who had so readily become my hero"
The very first book that I ever read in the m/m genre was a book by Marie Sexton. Until this point I had really turned my nose up and had been very sceptical about such books, until one day I thought let's give it a go. I read Between Sinners and Saints
and was blown away. That was it! Converted. Hooked and have never looked back. I have now read a lot and often think if I had maybe read something else the effect wouldn't have been quite the same. I'm so grateful that by pure chance I managed to pick a book by one of most talented writers of this genre. There are still a lot more books from Marie that I wish to read, but I'll get there eventually.
As for this book, all I can personally say is "read it and weep" but take heart for a great end that will send your heart soaring.