A beautiful human experience

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"It's the trying that heals you. That's all you have to do. Just try."

Everything Margaret Jacobsen has worked for is at her fingertips. Her dream job. Her dream wedding. Her dream fiancé. Until, on what should have been the happiest day of her life, everything was taken away in one accident.

Now, in the hospital, Margaret has to face the very real possibility that everything is going to be different from now on. She has to learn to let go of the past while facing her uncertain future. At every turn up, family secrets, heartbreak, and well meaning visitors constantly set her back. Life can't always be planned, and now Margaret has to find her own path forward.

"It's strange that I could have laughed so hard under those circumstances, during that very dark moment in my life. But I've decided sorrow can make things funnier. Endure enough hardship, and you start needing a really good laugh."

How To Walk Away is a phenomenal book. It will take you through nearly every range of emotions you possess. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll shake your head in anger and disgust, you'll feel the rush of inspiration. This is a book that opens the hearts of it's characters to show the spectrum of humanity. These characters are flawed. They are so vividly human you'll swear you know them. Or people like them.

Yet, for their flaws, they aren't unlikeable. Sure, you'll like some more than others, but on the whole, you'll see them as profoundly human. Even when they do the wrong things, Center has a way of exposing their vulnerabilities to the reader. You sympathize with them, even when you don't like them. Or agree with them. This is a story that isn't about the plot twists, or the epic revelations. It's a story about a woman, a family. How trauma and secrets have twisted and ruined their lives in some form or another. And how they face that.

"You can only reach out so many times before you stop trying. After a while, just the fact that somebody is mad at you can make you feel mad at them."

This is the first book by Katherine Center I've read, but I fully intend on changing that. These characters felt like people I know. The way they talked to each other, how they teased and fought and loved. It's difficult to get into details because I don't want to accidentally reveal plot points. Needless to say, this is a book that you should get swept away by. Get swept into.

I will say that the messaging throughout the novel is fantastic. It's a book that helps us remember we don't have to always be perfect, or have the answers, or even know what to do. Through Maggie we get permission to have bad days, to give up sometimes, even if it isn't forever. We can't always be an inspirational Instagram post. Sometimes life is real. It's hard. It throws us curveballs, and trauma, and tragedy, and heartbreak. Sometimes it is too much, too big, too painful to put on a happy face and pretend.

"There's a temptation," he added, "when someone you love is struggling, to want to help too much. Keep in mind that the struggle makes her stronger."

That doesn't mean that we fully give in. Or give up. Rather, by letting go we can move on. Move forward. Things can be different, but they can still have a version of a happy ending. It's a message that sometimes gets lost in this world of ours, especially in terms of mental health.

It may sound like this book is a bucket of tears waiting to happen. And, in some ways, it is. I cried. Several times. But it wasn't over the heartbreak. Or, it wasn't always over heartbreak. Or tragedy. Some of the tears, especially at the end, were because this book makes you feel alive. It makes you feel human. I don't know how else to describe it. It's uplifting and will make you take a moment to reflect when you finally close the cover.
Easily one of the best books I've read this year. It was exactly what I needed to read, and I'm sure I'll be revisiting it soon.

Thank you St. Martins Press and She Speaks Up for providing a review copy!