Swear on This Lifeby Renee Carlino
Published by Simon & Schuster, Atria on August 9th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.
Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.
That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.
The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?
Ms. Carlino has done it to me again. I don’t even know where to start. From a lonely, dirt road in backwoods Ohio (Been there! I KNOW it exists!) to George’s on the Cove (Been there! I KNOW it exists), Ms. Carlino ripped my heart back and forth, back and forth, and back throughout this heartbreaking story about settling on the life you’ve been dealt…. or going out and grabbing a new one!
There is so much out there… get off your ass and grab it already, people!!!
Oh, no, you’re not getting off so easy, folks…. I’m doing a book review today!
Emiline is stalled out on her writing career. She’s buying time by teaching writing at UC San Diego while she tries to find her “voice”. She’s sort of stalled out on her love life, too. She’s been with the same guy for many years and it’s still going no where.
One fateful day she starts reading the current bestselling novel, recommended to her by her roommate. As she starts reading, she’s suddenly overwhelmed to be reading her life story, told from her point of view. But she never wrote this story. And only one person would know this much detail about her childhood, the boy she grew up across the street from.
Imagine you’re a writer, currently not succeeding in your chosen career, and to have the boy from across the street write your story and become a national bestselling author… You’d be a little pissed, right? Oh, Emiline is, that’s for sure. But as her quiet and secret past is unveiled to not only her friends but to the entire world, she’s encouraged by her roommate and aunts to keep reading the story.
Ms. Carlino incorporates a unique approach to flashing back and forth in time. She uses the bestselling novel Emiline is reading to tell the story of Emiline’s past. I thought this was a fantastic format for two reasons: One, I’ve never seen this done before so points for uniqueness and two, it opened up the storyline for Emiline to critique the interpretation of her childhood.
I enjoyed the many layers to this story. To me, it felt like a story of, “the road not traveled”. But in Emiline’s case, she had her story written all the way to end for her. But would she read it? Could she? You’ll have to find out for yourself. Oh, and what to do about that boy….
I adored Jason (or Jax in the “fictionalized” novel) and the hell he put Emiline through. He was just… well… yeah, there’s a reason why I haven’t brought him up until now. This is yet another story that you just want to let happen for yourself.
I will say that all the characters were clearly developed. I loved Emiline’s aunts (I have uncles so I can totally relate!), I thought the storyline with Emiline’s parents was perfect, and even Jason’s mother’s storyline was fairly complex. Don’t worry, it wasn’t too much story – it was juuuuust right.
Okay, Ms. Carlino, now you’re screwed because I have no clue how you’re going to top this one.