Wednesday, March 29, 2017

REVIEW: The Hard Truth About Sunshine by Sawyer Bennett



Shel: The Hard Truth About Sunshine is definitely a hard read. Christopher's outlook on his life is unrelentingly bitter for a good portion of the novel, justifiably. He's living through an experience that he didn't ask for and he feels angry, abandoned, and hopeless and those feelings drench every page for the a large part of his narrative. I honestly wasn't sure if Christopher would ever shake loose his sarcasm, cynicism, and dour look on life and the more I got to know him, I felt I better understood why he'd hang on to all of the emotions he exuded. That he'd willingly go on a cross country trip to get out of further mandated group therapy both surprised me and didn't. He didn't seem like the type to want to be cooped up in a car with three other people he didn't particularly like but he also seemed like the type who'd do anything to get out of touchy feely talk therapy sessions. And, I suppose if I really think about it, he would have way more control of how things went if he was driving on this cross country trip so I guess when I really think about it, it makes sense that he'd go on this trip with the three other people he was in therapy with.

Court: I didn't know whole lot about this one before I started it. I knew that I love Sawyer Bennett and the cover was incredibly beautiful. Other than that; clear eyes, full hearts...and all that. And just wow. I was blown over by the authenticity of the emotions of these people. They're each in therapy for very different reasons, and we get all of this through Christopher's eyes and as Shelley said...his point of view is a bit skewed and dark by his own circumstances. We are on this road trip journey with them, and we find out little by little how the last two years of Christopher's life has turned out and really got down to the nitty gritty with these characters. One thing though, I am normally the biggest nurse snob on the planet with patients as characters, and I work in Orthopaedic Trauma - SO...usually I have a lot of negative things to say about that, but Sawyer did this one true and on point so I am so, so, so, so very happy to say that the medical parts did not brutalize - but enhanced my reading experience. (Grade A snob...I admit it)

Shel: It's on this cross country trip that we get to know more about Christopher's car mates: Jillian, Barb, and Connor. Their stories are interesting, sad, and perhaps surprisingly, uplifting. Getting to know them and seeing how their personalities all mix in close confines turned out to be the comic relief that helps soften some of the grimness that infuses each of the character's back stories. It's also on this trip that Christopher begins to open up, takes some emotional risks, and allows himself to trust others. He still hangs on to his assholish nature and there's no way he thinks his life after the road trip will be all sunshine and daisies, but the friendships and love and loss he experiences all help soften some of his sharpness and makes for a novel that feels more hopeful than not. 

Court: Exactly. It is realistic. It is hopeful. It is truth, because simply put: emotions are just shit sometimes. And having them bottled inside is not good, but most people (as these people find out) don't really like them oozing out in the open for everyone to see we are in this trap of never ending trying to put on a brave face for others and it is hard. Finding people, albeit a motley crew of people with issues, was really a turning point for Christopher to open his eyes to the world and let in a little bit of hope. Hope was something he tried time and time again to squash, and Jillian, Barb and Connor were the perfect cast to bring this book to vivid picture in my mind. I loved every page of this book, even though I waited with so much angst as I was reading what happened. I was nervous. I maybe had a little leakage out of my eyes. But I will never forget this book. 

    The Hard Truth About Sunshine AMAZON
New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett has written her most gripping and poignant tale yet. Provocatively heart-breaking, audaciously irreverent and romantically fulfilling, The Hard Truth About Sunshine exposes just how very thin the line is between a full life and an empty existence. Despite having narrowly escaped death's clutches, Christopher Barlow is grateful for nothing. His capacity to love has been crushed. He hates everyone and everything, completely unable to see past the gray stain of misery that coats his perception of the world. It's only after he involuntarily joins a band of depressed misfits who are struggling to overcome their own problems, does Christopher start to re-evaluate his lot in life. What could they possibly learn from one another? How could they possibly help each other to heal? And the question that Christopher asks himself over and over again... can he learn to love again? He's about to find out as he embarks upon a cross country trip with a beautiful woman who is going blind, a boy with terminal cancer, and an abuse victim who can't decide whether she wants to live or die. Four people with nothing in common but their destination. They will encounter adventure, thrills, loss and love. And within their travels they will learn the greatest lesson of all. The hard truth about sunshine... Warning: This book deals with some tough issues including suicide and sexual abuse.

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LaurenBlakelyQuote   Jillian holds my gaze for a moment, her eyes drilling into mine before she gently tugs on the material of my jeans near the shin rod of my prosthetic. “What happened to you?” She doesn’t look away. Not down at the fire, not down to my legs. She stares right at me. Although my gut is turning slightly at the thought of telling her what she asked, I forge straight ahead. For the first time, I tell someone who is not medical personnel or a shrink my story. “I was driving a military Humvee and the right front tire ran over a roadside bomb,” I say, and Jillian makes a sound of distress low her in throat as her eyes turn sad. “It completely obliterated my buddy sitting in the passenger seat.” To my surprise, Jillian scoots over closer to me and lays her head on my shoulder. She pushes her hand in between my ribs and my arm, curling her fingers over my bicep. It’s a show of support. Solidarity. That she’s settled in for the long haul of this story, and she wants to hear it all. “It didn’t blow my leg off,” I tell her, and I can feel her body jerk slightly in surprise. Her fingers squeeze my bicep. “The fingers yes, the leg no. It just shattered and shredded it badly, but the doctors tried hard to save it.” “Obviously, they couldn’t,” she whispers the obvious. “They tried for three months,” I tell her, reaching down to grab my phone laying near my left hip. Jillian lifts her head up, watching as I pull up my pictures. I scroll backward, but it doesn’t take long to find what I’m looking for because I don’t take a lot of photos. I hold the phone out so she can see. “This was taken about a month after my injury.” Jillian makes a strangled sound as she looks at the photo of me in bed. My eyes are half open because I was bombed out on so many heavy-duty pain medications, and I have a grimace on my face. I vaguely remember this picture being taken, and I think it may have been by my brother, Hank, when he came to visit once during that first month. He came a few more times after that, and then he didn’t. Jillian’s eyes roam over the photo. My leg is encased in the external fixator with several rods leading from the outside of the cage right into my skin, where it’s drilled through and into the bone to hold the pieces together. The wounds on my leg are all open to the air, red and some of them dripping with puss and lined with blisters. I’ve got IVs in both arms and a PICC line in the right side of my neck to deliver the hordes of antibiotics and pain meds I needed to keep me alive and functioning. I took the maximum dosages they allowed me, preferring to try to be oblivious to what was happening. Yet, the pain was so great it just couldn’t be fully erased. Jillian turns her head to look at me, and I lay the phone back down. “How long were you like that?” “Three months. But they couldn’t get ahead of the infections, which were delaying the bones from knitting. I was in so much pain that I wanted them to amputate.” “You had to make that decision?” she whispers. I nod. “Yup. I mean… the doctors were at the point they felt it was the right way to go, although they were willing to keep trying if I wanted. But I wanted it gone. I was tired of being in the hospital and being in so much pain. I just wanted it gone.” “Do you regret that decision?” she asks me bluntly, but with that still-sweet melody her voice makes. The question doesn’t bother me, because even her hard questions sound lovely. “Yes,” I tell her without any shame. “I wonder what would have happened if I held on just a little bit longer. Not long after the leg came off, the pain receded and I became more lucid. Once I’d forgotten how bad the infections smelled, I regretted it.” “Three months is an awful long time to be in pain like that,” she points out the obvious. I shrug. “And the rest of my life is a long time to wonder ‘what if.’”     AuthorPhoto
Since the release of her debut contemporary romance novel, Off Sides, in January 2013, Sawyer Bennett has released more than 30 books and has been featured on both the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists on multiple occasions. A reformed trial lawyer from North Carolina, Sawyer uses real life experience to create relatable, sexy stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From new adult to erotic contemporary romance, Sawyer writes something for just about everyone. Sawyer likes her Bloody Marys strong, her martinis dirty, and her heroes a combination of the two. When not bringing fictional romance to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to a very active toddler, as well as full-time servant to two adorably naughty dogs. She believes in the good of others, and that a bad day can be cured with a great work-out, cake, or a combination of the two.

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