“It’s a particularly strange kind of loss, when something you don’t think you even want gets taken away from you.”
Three months after Greta James’ mother dies, she has an onstage meltdown a couple weeks before the release of her long awaited sophomore album. Trying to outrun the humiliation and self doubt, she agrees to accompany her father on an Alaskan cruise. A cruise that her father and mother had looked forward to for months and one they booked to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Greta has spent her entire career trying to prove her practical father wrong. Her mother, Helen, had been at every bar, every performance, cheering her on but her father, Conrad, had always felt that she should do something more practical and steady with her life.
“Maybe the point isn’t always to make things last. Maybe it’s just to make them count.”
This is essentially a father-daughter story. Greta and her father feel so lost after the death of Helen and they’re both trying to grief the best way they know how. On the trip is also 4 of her parents’ friends, two couples that her mother had convinced to come on the trip with them. This Alaskan trip becomes a chance for father and daughter to hash out their differences including talking about the infamous song she wrote about him. It was quite heartbreaking to see a man who loved his wife very much have to deal with her passing and still be subjected to the trip they had both wanted to go on for so long.
“It’s like that feeling of getting off a long flight and taking your first breath of fresh air. You were okay on the plane. You could breathe just fine. And you could survive like that for a pretty long time if you had to. But once you’re off, you realize you wouldn’t want to live that way forever. Not if you had a choice.”
Ben Wilder is also struggling with a major upheaval in his life. He has come on the cruise as an expert historian on Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, an adventure story Greta’s mum had loved so much. He’s here to give lectures as part of the entertainment offered on the cruise. Him and Greta hit it off on the boat but they live completely different lives in the real world and this might be the only time they can enjoy the bubble of being with each other.
“The truth is, being a parent is mostly just reacting. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t. You give what you can. And at the end of the day, most of it is just being there.”
When I grabbed this book, I expected it to be a deeply emotional read about a father and daughter trying to reconnect after they lose someone very important to them. While this is what this book is meant to be, I actually did not find it emotional at all. It was hard for me to connect with any of the characters in the book and I found the romance on the side a little distracting especially as it did not have a very satisfying conclusion. I never felt fully invested in any of the characters or the story. I never bought into the main character being a Rockstar plus I found her to be quite immature and angsty for her age. I wonder if because Smith usually writes YA books and this is her first adult novel, if some of that teenage angst bled into someone who’s supposed to be in her 30s.
I still think this is an easy read. I read this all in one day and while it may not stay with me past this year, it was a solid 3 star book for me. If you’ve been postponing this one because you’re worried it might be too heavy for you, I promise that it is not at all heavy.
Have you read this? What did you think? Have a happy reading week everybody!