Title: The Darkest Part (Living Heartwood #1)
Author: Trisha Wolfe
Released: 6th August 2013
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don't think it's possible to be disappointed by Trisha Wolfe. I opened this, safe in the knowledge that all I had read before I had liked, and expected good things. I think it's safe to say I got good things. In fact, with such a beautifully emotional story and with characters you just want to hug, I'd go so far as to say I got wonderful things.
Sam was left devastated after her fiancé, Tyler Marks, was killed in a hit-and-run and shocked when she started seeing his ghost. At first disbelieving, now she holds on to seeing him and talking to him to help her get through each day. Her parents, on the other hand, have her meeting with a psychiatrist. She decides she needs to help Tyler cross over, and a plan starts to form: she'll collect his ashes and finally take that trip they were supposed to go on for their honeymoon, scattering his ashes at each stop. Never mind the fact that she might not be ready for him to go. When Holden, Tyler's brother, returns to the neighbourhood to see where Tyler's case is at, Sam enlists his help to get hold of his brother's ashes. Holden is the last person she wants to ask given their past, but there's no other choice. What she doesn't plan is for Holden coming with her. Holden, who is increasingly worried at Sam's mental state with each day. Holden, who has secrets of his own. With the past clinging tightly to both of them, it's uncertain whether they'll be able to make it back out.
This is a bit of a difficult one because it's marketed as a contemporary, yet there also seems to the be the possibility of the supernatural. The matter of Tyler's ghost and Sam's mental state is portrayed in such a way as to leave room for doubt. A little more definition may have been desirable, but I believe it works equally well either way. Whichever end of the spectrum this book falls at, the ghost works to bring a delicious level of darkness, on the one hand through its own presence and on the other through conveying Sam's highly troubled state of mind. Add to that a roadtrip and two characters each undergoing their own emotional journey, and there was no way I was being parted from this book before finishing. Once again Wolfe's writing style proves irresistible, flexible enough that she creates a world so different from her usual creations - real rather than fantasy - and yet still so complex. In addition to which, two perspectives that are clearly different.
Sam and Holden are both broken characters, shown to be so in different ways. The extent to which Sam is shattered over her fiancé's death truly had me feeling for her. Ghost or no ghost, she isn't ready to let Tyler go, and that has caused her to let go of herself. Holden is barely holding it together under the weight of guilt and secrets - and now also being close to Sam. One of the things that really struck me about him was how thoughtful he was. As far as he's concerned Sam is unstable, and in his interactions with her you can see him think through what the best approach would be at any given moment so that she isn't pushed too hard (arguments withstanding). It probably sounds patronising here, but the novel depicts someone very intelligent and very concerned.
For such broken characters, then, I thought the roadtrip a perfect way to make and show their own personal journeys. I think that's one of the reasons I love roadtrip stories. At the same time as honouring Tyler's memory they were making their own, and the dynamics between them were constantly changing. There was outright hostility and forgiveness and fear and love and everything in between, not to mention the pretty awesome Biker Melody helping things along. The past was confronted, demons (or do I mean ghosts?) put to rest and the sweetest of endings. Until finally there was just me, face stretched into a wide smile and the presence of two new characters in my heart.
The Darkest Part shows what it means to lose someone and to let go. It's beautiful, emotional, well-written. Frankly by this point I don't expect anything less of Trisha Wolfe. If you haven't yet read anything by this author, I would strongly urge you to do so. (Seriously, why haven't you?) Whether it's myth, fantasy, adventure or, as is the case here, mystery, emotion or even simply a tale of two individuals, there is no doubt that she has you sorted.