I received an Advance Readers’ Copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
This is a weird little book. I say that with some affection because, overall, I enjoyed it. But it’s weird and it’s trying to be weird and it isn’t always successful.
We meet Thomas in his moment of death. After a motorcycle accident, an angel appears to, apparently, take him on to whatever comes next. But something is wrong and instead Thomas returns to live a sort of half life while the problem is sorted out and before he can return to…heaven? (It’s unclear.) He’s in his own body but not quite a normal version of it. He’s in his own neighbourhood but not his old apartment. He sees people he knows but they don’t recognize him. He’s in limbo, on earth.
Then he meets Rachel. Here we switch from Thomas’ to Rachel’s perspective as she quickly falls in love with him. While this section is certainly compelling and the exploration of their relationship is unique, it didn’t quite work for me. Rachel figures out very early on that Thomas is dead. Yet she never really seems bothered by it. Neither of them are ever concerned about the effect this will have on Rachel (even though Thomas was explicitly warned about being physical with the living) or what she will do when Thomas is fully dead. Perhaps I’m too practical but I would have a lot more questions for this guy, especially since she hasn’t known him for very long.
Bonnaffons attempts to balance it all out by trying to show us that Rachel is odd in her own right and has been chasing a “daydream” her whole life and so is uniquely primed to fall in love with Thomas. Still, I could never let go of all the questions Rachel didn’t ask. Partly this may be because the supernatural aspect of the story is never fully explored or explained.
The second half of the novel is also not quite as effective. A third character is introduced and we follow a strange sort of triangle. While I can appreciate an open-ended story, this one felt like it devolved from its own centre and where it was the most interesting, which was Thomas and Rachel’s relationship.
In the end, I was left feeling less like I’d read a book exploring life and death and more like this was a story about an abusive relationship. When viewed from this perspective, the book takes on a new light but I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not Bonnaffons wanted us to see Rachel and Thomas as romantic or horrifying. Maybe both? Maybe that’s for the reader to decide.
Perhaps this is, on some level, what every woman longs for: the chance to become the world for another person, to prove that she is the world. I felt this urge ripening inside of me as we lay curled together on the bed. It seemed like a worthy use of my life. I mean, what else had I been planning to do with it?
At the same time: where did it end? What if the world I lived in, the world for which I’d come to stand in, was already in some way lost to me?The Regrets, Amy Bonnaffons