This was another Hot Key Books blogger find – published earlier this month, the story of two brothers trying to forge a new life after an unimaginable tragedy changes their lives irrevocably.
A powerfully told story of the love between two brothers in the aftermath of a family tragedyGriff and Dylan are driving into Manhattan with their parents when the worst happens. There is a terrible car accident and Dylan and Griff¹s parents are killed.
The boys are suddenly orphans with nowhere to go, until a kind aunt and uncle give them a new home in Wales. Now Dylan and Griff have everything they need love, a happy home and a future. But Dylan is worried about Griff: whether he is OK, whether he is coping with his grief. He doesn¹t seem to want to speak about it or really acknowledge the loss of their parents.
But Dylan needs to be even braver than Griff, because there is something very important he needs to face up to before he can move on.
The heartbreaking new novel from award-winning author Hayley Long
Funnily enough, despite the narrator of this book being Dylan, Griff is most definitely the main character. Everything Dylan does is about helping his little brother get through this terrible event and the weeks and months that follow it. But the reason for this became clear to me relatively early on in the book. But I don’t think that actually really impacted on my enjoyment of the book all that much.
The first parts of this book take place in New York, and in Brooklyn, as the boys try to come to terms with what happened. It’s also told in flashbacks as Dylan retreats into his memories of travelling the world with his family, never putting down roots for too long, as they moved on to teach in different countries and on different continents. The second half, then, brings the boys more stability as they move to Aberystwyth in Wales, and begin to put down roots and deal with their past.
There were a lot of wonderful things in this book. Coping with grief, the love Dylan has for his younger brother, and musings on The Nearest Faraway Place – finding ordinary parts of life that are still magical and wondrous. I started this book one day, put it down, then picked it up the next morning and read until 3am, as I couldn’t bear to put it down. As I turned the final page, tears streaming down my face, I felt like a weight had been lifted off me, and that I had been on a hell of a journey with Griff and Dylan. Hayley Long captured so perfectly the protectionist feelings that Dylan had for his little brother, pushing aside all of his own worries and issues so that he could step into his role as protector and guidance for Griff.
There were a couple of things I didn’t like about this book, though. The typesetting was bizarre, with whispered words being set in a smaller case and loud things being set in a larger case. Each break into the nearest faraway place, a flashback to earlier times, was indicated by the four or five preceding words being set on their own lines, so
memory of a place that he had loved. It just felt unnecessary. I think possibly because it was infrequent, the different text sizes were jarring, rather than being part of the structure of the book, as might have been the case with a book like Identical, by Ellen Hopkins, which was set entirely in unusual ways.
In any case, despite having pegged the conclusion of the book early on (it was hinted heavily, in fairness), and disliking aspects of the typesetting, that was still not enough to stop me thoroughly enjoying this book, reading it without pause, and sobbing my eyes out in bed at 3am. Therefore it comes with quite high recommendations from me – it is a beautiful, lyrical story of love and brotherhood and loss and moving on.