Note: This ARC was provided by TRSoR Promotions in exchange for an honest review.
"When everything's dark for so damn long and your eyes get used to it," I said, "just a little glimmer of sunshine lights up the whole world."
I started and finished this book last and in the light of a new day, I'm still experiencing a book hangover. Even when the temptation to take a break from what sometimes like the emotionally exhausting barrage of anger, sadness, and guilt that Luke Cawley was actively avoiding only to have it sneak up on him when he was his most vulnerable, I pushed on because the journey he was on, as pain-filled as it was, was an honest and inspiring one, focusing on both the heartache that Emily Cawley's passing left behind and the hope that she helps Luke discover with the delivery and opening of each of her nine letters a year after her death. 9 Letters may be Blake Austin's debut novel, but I sincerely wish he continues to write some more.
It's easy to categorize a person's grief into stages and simply saying that they need to go through each one in order to fully get through the grieving process. But I've heard from a number of people who have lost their significant other say that you never really forget what it's like to go through such a devastating loss as that of the person you were supposed to spend the rest of your life with. Even after a year since his wife died from cancer, Luke is barely living. Yes, he does what he has to in order to create a semblance that he's going on with whatever is left of his life, but he hasn't completely mourned the loss of Emily. He does the bare minimum that constitutes existing, but he's clearly lost his way and isn't actively asking for directions.
This isn't the first book that has a departed spouse sending letters to the still living spouse (all written prior to the passing, of course, since I'm not talking about paranormal in this case), and while this has that familiar feeling of poignancy, the sharpness of those emotions that are often labeled as negative is also brought forth. Like it or not, Luke has to go through those "negative" emotions because in the end, they're the ones that could be cathartic, giving him a sense of release and that letting go is usually the first step to moving forward. He stumbles, he has missteps, and he also retreats, but you want to be with Luke every step of the way, because you find yourself hoping, that at the end of it all, he'll be okay, ready to live again.
We get Luke and Emily's love story told in flashbacks, and it's a beautifully told tale, leaving no question as to why her death hit him as much as it has. She was his heart and when his heart was taken away, the rest of him ceased to function the way it used to. We also have Luke's story as a grief-stricken widower working his way through both the mundane, everyday stuff and through the letters from Emily. There's his fledgling relationship with Rae Goode, who could well be that ray of sunshine and goodness (pun intended) that Luke can acknowledge and embrace. Then there's King, whom I adored the most, and the eighth letter, which made me tear up the most. 9 Letters is different, the kind we all need. Five-plus stars. ♥
24 February 2016 23 February 2016 (released early!)
Date Read: 23 February 2016
Learn more about Blake Austin.
Purchase 9 Letters on Amazon.