I was very much afraid that When You Went Away by Michael Baron would read like a Nicholas Sparks novel. Then again, we are informed that Gerry experiences heartache and loss early on: his seventeen-year-old daughter ran away with a twenty-year-old, his wife died a month after giving birth to their son, and now he’s faced with a life of trying to grapple with the loss, and raising his infant son alone.
And he does a pretty good job with it. Meeting new people, rekindling friendships, finding love, finding strength. Bonding with his son, Reese. In effect, relearning how to be a father.
It moves predictably. Newfound love offers your usual conflict of Is It Too Soon? Your usual issues with raising a baby boy. Dealing with the grief of losing the love of his life, and that of missing his daughter.
But it is a heartwarming story–yes, once in a while, my black heart loosens up a little and goes squee over babies. It’s a good story, a surprisingly fast read–Baron doesn’t weigh us down with overwrought expressions of grief. Just right. Just so. Very simply put. And Reese, Gerry’s son, is an adorable kid. Very very very adorable.
It won’t hold up much to a critical eye; its predictability is its greatest flaw. I mean, did we really have to wonder about happy endings and all that shiz?
It’s a book that tugs at your heartstrings. But the difference between this and the contrivance of yo-manipulative The Postmistress is this: it’s touching. It’s tender, it’s heartfelt, it’s honest. It’s almost humble, how moments stop when Reese discovers a new shiny thing, or when Gerry reflects on fatherhood. It’s a simple story, despite my fears of melodrama. I mean, it was just right, ya know? Flaws and all. I read it quickly, enjoying myself, laughing at the dialogue, getting teary-eyed in many places.
It’s a good book. I liked it a lot. I mean, I need good books about good people every once in a while.
I now call this genre Heart Candy. YayConfetti.