A Guest Review by Andrea
Review Summary: One of the best books I’ve read all year, even if I do feel like I just jumped off an emotional roller coaster.
Peter first came to the tiny backwater of Daisy, California, as a child, and he was sure of one thing: his cousin Michael would take care of him. When Michael started a friendship with the fragile, haunted Bodi Kovacs, Peter’s consolation in losing any claim to Bodi was that Michael would care for him too. But tragedy struck, and Michael ripped himself out of their world and threw away the people who loved him most.
Six years later, Michael is coming home in a box. All it took to destroy a hero was a town full of bigotry and hatred. Reclaiming him will take strength of heart that neither Peter nor Bodi had six years ago. Since Michael left, Bodi has been lost and alone. Peter can try to make Bodi his and take the role Michael should have had, but first he and Bodi have to confront the past. They will need to face Michael, the good and the bad, the beauty and the sadness, and see his memory truly for what it was and not what it could have been. It’s a simple act that may destroy them both: sifting through the flaming ruins of heaven is a sure way to annihilate a bleeding mortal heart.
This is going to be a strange review for me. I can’t give a nice simple explanation of the plot and characters and then let you know how I felt about them. There is nothing simple about this book and the blurb already gives you the bare bones of what the book is about. The best I can do is describe how the story impacted me and let other readers know what to expect if they decide to read it. I thought the best place to start was with the inspiration behind the book. I tried to sum it up a hundred different ways before I finally realized I would never say it as well as the author herself did.
“This novel started when I was listening to Bruce Springsteen songs, in particular “Gypsy Biker,” “Devil’s Arcade,” “Magic,” “I’ll Work For Your Love,” which are all on the Magic CD. I wanted to write a book that made me feel like those songs for the entire length of the book. Of course, after writing Mourning Heaven, I now know why Bruce writes about his people in two- to three-minute songs, because that much pain might just kill you dead if you live it for too long, but mostly, I hope I succeeded in capturing for you what he has given me.”
I immediately understood what she was talking about, there is something about listening to Bruce Springsteen’s music and the emotions that take over. For me, it’s a mixture of nostalgia, heartbreak, frustration, elation and a deep yearning for something more. If you get that and enjoy it, read this book!
The author was also right to be concerned about a full length book having this much pain, it was almost too much to take. I’m not an emotional person and even I had to put the book down for a minute because the anguish was too much and I need a minute to pull myself together. This is not normal for me, the only other book I can remember having such a strong emotional impact was Caregiver by Rick R. Reed.
The book begins with Peter learning of his cousin Michael’s death in Afghanistan. The reader knows the pain and uncertainty Peter is feeling as he goes to deliver the news to Bodi, but doesn’t know why. At first I was frustrated because I couldn’t see the whole picture. I absolutely hate being left in the dark and not knowing what is going on when I’m reading. As the history of the characters was revealed, I saw why the author did it this way. You honestly couldn’t take it all in at once, it had to be revealed slowly.
Throughout the entire book, the present is interspersed with the past. It’s a roller coaster of emotions which is sometimes heart wrenching and at other times uplifting. The characters are deep and complex with an even more convoluted history. Mourning Heaven is not a fluffy romance, it’s an experience. An experience I wholeheartedly enjoyed, but I can only handle a book like this a few times each year. It’s painful, it’s powerful and it’s beautiful… I loved it!