Review: What Remains by Garrett Leigh

Note: This ARC was provided by Riptide Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Jodi turned a page, and another, and another, and discovered a timeline of images that plainly showed the love and life he and Rupert had shared. His chest tightened, and he thought he would cry, but instead of tears came laughter, and a smile so wide he thought his face might split. He'd loved Rupert then, and he loved him still. The remnants of their broken dreams lay scattered all around, and were laid bare. 

Oh my. Where do I begin with this review? I started and finished the book yesterday and nearly twenty-four hours later, I still find myself at a loss for words that I think are, at the very least, sufficient enough to explain how absolutely amazing I think What Remains is. This is only my second Garrett Leigh read, but this is also the second time that she's created such a superbly written novel that is as heartbreaking as it is hopeful. It's a story that makes you stop and wonder what you would if you were caught in the same situation as the main characters, Jodi Peters and Rupert O'Neil. Would you have the emotional strength and conviction to continue standing by someone who has no memory of  your life together, or would you choose to cut all your losses and walk away, allowing you both to live different, albeit very separate, lives?

Jodi Peters and Rupert O'Neil have been together for more than years. From the moment they met on Boxing Day, there was this inexplicable connection between the website designer and builder and the firefighter and part-time club bouncer. Jodi is there to support Rupert as he fully embraces his sexuality and Rupert gives Jodi that feeling of home and companionship. They've created a family of their own, with Rupert's young daughter Indie visiting whenever she's allowed to. They live a good life...until it's taken away from them in the middle of a pedestrian crossing. After months of waiting and hoping, Jodi wakes up and doesn't recognize Rupert, having no memories of the last five years. He's angry and frustrated and shows no interest in Rupert or their past. Can they go on with a life together when not much of it remains?

This story... Gah! From the very first page, it's clear that what Jodi and Rupert share is a beautiful and honest love, so when the life they have is snatched away from them and the story of how they meet is interspersed with those moments of desolation and despair as the unknown looms over them, it's utterly heartrending. We see them falling in love through Jodi's eyes and we see Rupert struggling with the silence and stillness in the aftermath of what happened at the pedestrian crossing. The sensations that tingle through you as you read about them finding love and discovering who they are as individuals and as a couple are just as strong as the ones that fill you as you read about them dealing with their new normal, with Rupert hoping for the return of the old one and Jodi frustrated at not remembering a single bit of it.

Reading this tale of love, friendship, perseverance, and faith (and no, I'm not talking about the religious kind of faith but the kind of faith that a person has in someone or something, whether tangible or not, believing in it, in spite of doubts and fears...which is actually similar to religious faith, at least, in my eyes), had me asking, both myself and my best friend, what would be more difficult: being the one who couldn't remember or the one who remembered everything. Jodi's medical situation was painful because you could feel how frustrated and angry he was. It wasn't as if he could take some magic pill and every single memory he's lost will come rushing back. But then Rupert had all these memories--memories he shared only with Jodi--and the person who he shared them with is no longer the same, with no guarantee he ever would be.

Relationships aren't all hearts and flowers (or whatever item you'd like to associate with it). It isn't all about romance and wooing. Relationships take a lot of work, and I get that we read romance novels to have those few hours of sigh-worthy moments where everyone lives happily-ever-after (or at least we'd like to think so). But I've always preferred stories that have conflict, and I'm not just talking about the kind of conflict where it's a bit of miscommunication or misunderstanding. I want something that'll test the relationship I'm reading about and that I've become fully invested in, and I was all in when it came to Jodi and Rupert. What these two went through wasn't sugar-coated, having lost a great deal, but sometimes, what remains may very be more than enough to start anew. What Remains is a five-plus-starred favorite. ♥

Release Date: 04 July 2016

Date Read: 02 July 2016

Learn more about Garrett Leigh.

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