Book Review: The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

About the Book:

The Wake Up

From New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde comes a hauntingly emotional novel of how one man’s life changes forever when he rediscovers his ability to feel the pain of others.

Something has been asleep in forty-year-old cattle rancher Aiden Delacorte for a long time. It all comes back in a rush during a hunting trip, when he’s suddenly attuned to the animals around him, feeling their pain and fear as if it were his own. But the newfound sensitivity of Aiden’s “wake up” has its price. He can no longer sleepwalk through life, holding everyone at arm’s length. As he struggles to cope with a trait he’s buried since childhood, Aiden falls in love with Gwen, a single mother whose young son bears a burden of his own.

Sullen and broken from his experiences with an abusive father, Milo has turned to acting out in violent and rebellious ways. Aiden can feel the boy’s pain, as well as that of his victims. Now he and Milo must sift through their pasts to find empathy with the innocent as well as the guilty, to come to terms with their deepest fears, and to finally discover the compassionate heart of a family.

My Thoughts:

I would like to thank Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for a copy of this novel. Slated to release this December, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s upcoming novel will pull you into a world of horses, cattle and people. Filled with heavy emotions, this story is as different from her others as it can be. Having red and reviewed Allie and Bea earlier this year, I am impressed at the diversity in the plots and the way the author writes. It is a pleasure to read her stories and there is always something to learn out of them.

The story revolves around Aiden, a man in his forties, who experiences something he refers to as “The Wake-up”, the title of this story. All of sudden he is able to feel the emotions – fear, happiness, sadness, desperation, etc of animals around him. Being a cattle rancher, there is a lot to deal with and the decision to stop scares not only Aiden, but people around him who have known him for a very long time. This concept is a lot to take in and deal with.

As the story progresses, Aiden is left alone by his neighbours and girlfriend, mostly due to his sudden change in behaviour which nobody understands or wants to. During this time, he meets Gwen, a single mother and her two children Elizabeth and Milo. Gwen is like a ray of sunshine in Aidden’s life, giving him the hope that he will be alright. Elizabeth is mature for her age and a very understanding child, the perfect child that every parent would want.

Milo on the other hand has been a victim of abuse at the hands of his father and acts out in a lot of harmful ways, especially towards animals. It is difficult to talk to him, to understand him and he doesn’t get along with Aiden. Here starts the story, the journey of healing and acceptance. As Aiden starts to seek help, his therapy sessions bring out a lot about his childhood and helps the reader understand who he is and how he came to be this way, including how his own step-father took a chance on him. This inspires him to try to help Milo, to earn his trust and to show him that he is worthy of love no matter what he has gone through.

The story also shows us how if you place your trust in a person and show them that they can achieve things in their life, it will change them. The story comes full circle with a horse birthing, that being the moment which changed young Aiden’s life and later something that helps Milo. As the truth unfolds, it is shocking to discover the abuse Milo has dealt with as well as the kind of dysfunctional family Aiden lived in until his step-father came into his life and helped him.

The reader will marvel at the subtle hints the author drops about the issues raised and how the simplest gesture can hold more meaning than a big grand one. A story of trust, acceptance and learning, ‘The Wake Up’ will leave the reader with a lot to think about and maybe the concept of being sensitive to other people’s feelings if not other beings.

Dark and sad, Paige Dearth brings out a part of life that many don’t see, in her book When Smiles Fade!

About the Book:

When Smiles Fade

Emma’s father’s coldblooded beatings and the ultimate abuse to which he subjects her, lays the foundation of the person she becomes. As she matures into a resourceful teenager, she is unwilling and unable to stifle her desire for revenge. Reaching her breaking point she can no longer control the impulse to fight back and finally takes matters into her own hands.

Having learned the art of hatred from her father and the mastery of manipulation from her mother, young Emma now sets out to make a better life for herself, leaving the memory of the abused child she had once been behind her. Hardened by the heartless brutality she encounters and the dangerous situations she must overcome in the course of her journey, she faces every challenge that comes her way in her quest for a normal life for herself and for those she loves.

Finally a person emerges from within that guides her toward a better life until she learns of a secret that sets her on the path of ultimate redemption.

 My Thoughts:

What would you do if your only option to survive is to do anything? Would you resort to killing the people who hurt you to protect the ones you love? What does it mean to be hated and hurt? How do you live in a family devoid of the basic emotion that connects them, love and trust? How does your upbringing shape who you ultimately become?

These are the kind of questions that this book raises and answers in some ways. There cannot be a right answer, it’s more of a perspective which the author brings out in a gentle manner. This is required when dealing with topics of abuse and hurt. Paige Dearth introduces us to Emma and her younger sister, who are subject to severe abuse from their father, with a mother who turns the other way through all this. To be frank, it is expected that the children will be traumatized, and that is putting it mildly. These experiences can change a person and the author portrays the same through the protagonist, Emma. She is strong-willed and resourceful while at the same time has a pleasing personality. It becomes difficult to dislike her or condemn her actions when she is after all doing her best to survive.

The people the sisters encounter along the way leave profound impacts on their lives. Some help them and end up becoming life long friends while the others end up somewhere in a ditch, and that’s putting it mildly. Everyone craves normalcy and a mundane life at times and the sisters are no different. However, tragedy seems to strike  so many times, it’s a wonder that they still find reasons to smile. In the end, Emma has the last laugh, but it was worth it all.

The author’s writing is bold and to the point and she doesn’t hold back on her descriptions. There is no stone left unturned in the journey of the sisters and Emma finally learns that you move on – “When smiles fade”! The title is apt and the reader understands this eventually. The story has a lot of smaller plot lines, with each encounter giving us a different glimpse into the characters who support this story and take it forward. The characters are well developed and clearly defined, giving the reader a clear idea of their personalities and at the same time helping us understand how they fit in.

The final question of “Will she find redemption and be happy?” is answered and I really enjoyed the way the story ended. It proved that Emma is a survivor and this is an inspiring thought. There is a lot to learn and understand in this book and I strongly recommend the same to all.