Review: Dear Life by Meghan Quinn

Note: This ARC was provided by the author via WordSmith Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Be kind. Be courageous. Do good. Own you. And prove your existence.

Most of the Meghan Quinn-penned books that I've already had the privilege of reading have been romantic comedies and there's never been any doubt in my mind how adept the woman is when it comes to slinging out her unique brand of humor and wit but she never forgets to give each story heart. In the case of her latest standalone, that Quinn wittiness is very much present, but there's more angst to this book. It isn't there to just squeeze out as much emotion from you as it can, but the stories of the four main characters--each of their individual tales and those they share as a group and later on, as two separate couples--gave me pause, inspiring me to muse and ponder, to empathize and to reflect. Dear Life is, in my totally humble opinion, Meghan Quinn at her most brilliant.

When the story begins, we meet the four main characters, Hollyn, Jace, Daisy, and Carter, at different points in their lives--the new bride and her firefighter husband, the Rookie of the Year candidate in major league baseball learning about a hook-up's pregnancy, the granddaughter learning her grandmother will receive better care in a nursing home, and the aspiring chef discovering his girlfriend has stolen his hard-earned money. As 2016 rolls in, each one finds themselves--whether willingly or coerced--joining a program meant to help them move forward. After each meeting, participants write letters, addressing each one "Dear Life". Through the letters and their own interactions with each other, readers see just how far Hollyn, Jace, Daisy, and Carter have progressed or regressed.

It would be easy to compare the issues each one of the main characters face and weigh them out to see whose is more "serious", but what this story reiterates time and again is that what may be a small matter to you could be something completely stressful to someone else. Who are we to judge who needs more help or whose problems are more dire? We don't necessarily have to walk in the shoes of someone else to understand what they're going through. It's a matter of empathy and being more receptive--don't just hear; listen. We can better appreciate what someone's experience is we actually take the time to listen and not merely judge based on the bits and pieces we pick out. Now, all four characters are going through changes, but will they embrace those changes or resist them?

As I read the story and went along the journeys Hollyn, Jace, Daisy, and Carter were on, there were steps forward and steps backwards, which made it an even more honest read as far as I was concerned. They struggled and they coped. There was nothing basic or simple about the eight steps they were supposed to go through in the Dear Life program, and I had to ask myself how far I would have gone if I were facing what each one of the four did. Giving up is easy enough, but it shouldn't even be an option. I fell in love with these four individuals and recognized a piece of myself in each one. Dear Life isn't a story about the widow, the birth father, the sheltered, and the resister; it's about finding the courage to truly live and make your mark. This is a very highly recommended five-plus-starrer. ♥

Date Read: 12 January 2017

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