COVID free-time has provided some wonderful space for reading, catching up on that list of books I’ve wanted to read but haven’t had a chance to.
I recently paid a visit to my local used bookstore to snatch up any Kristin Harmel books I hadn’t read. One of the treasures I walked away with is “The Life Intended.”
This was a great read! Not only is it an easy to flip through, feel-good story with some sweet sentimental moments between the characters, but the book also has depth.
The character development goes deeper than say a shopping obsessed New Yorker looking for the love of her life. Yes, it’s accessible from that fun-to-read chic-lit level, but it carries the weight of a beautifully-written story woven into an engaging novel.
Harmel’s story covers themes such as loss, grief, motherhood, relationships, romance, and healing. The narrator invites you to the rich inner life of Kate Waithman, a widow navigating life, love, and letting go of the pain of the past.
The Life COVID Interupted
Discovering right now, at this moment in my life, in the midst of the COVID desert, was perfect. Just like Kate, the protagonist, I find myself stuck between looking forward and backward as I try to figure out the direction my life should take.
Kate’s journey toward healing identifies places where regrets creep in and leave unexpected voids. She grapples with a reality that she did not want, did not plan for, and did not expect.
With COVID putting parts of life on pause, and impacting my finances, my vocation, and my social world, I can relate deeply to some moments in this book. The year 2020 has even, at times, brought about doubts and fears, prodding vulnerable parts of my identity. In weaker moments, those feelings of pain and lostness can start to chip away at my self worth.
Unexpected tragedies have a strange ability to deconstruct ones sense of self. I can look deeper in my history than the less few months to see other times when things like illness and loss have disrupted what I thought was my personal trajectory. And it can be so tough to let go and determine what to do with the voids created by loss.
In the book, Kate’s efforts to rebuild her life are inspiring. She evaluates how she will let life’s curveballs change her perspective and trajectory. I won’t give away the steps forward and backward that she takes to find resolution. But I will say, she allows pain to create space to live life more fully and serve others who are suffering.
A Fictional Feat
Another powerful dimension of this story is the structure Harmel uses to develop the plot. She does an excellent job of playing with the reader’s imagination by using a somewhat implausible tool to move the plot forward: the dream world.
Harmel uses dreaming life as a crucial vessel in the development of Kate’s story. The book has scenes that are surreal, yet just barely pushing the barriers that would necessitate suspending your disbelief. I was truly impressed at Harmel’s ability to weave extrodinary coincidences into the scenes of a simple life that reads as still ordinary.
The are bits of this book that skim the surface of fantasy without ever leaving the ground.
Healing Through Service
In Kate’s struggle to move forward with her life, she leans into an interest that involves serving the hard of hearing community through music therapy. It doesn’t necessarily begin as a selfless goal of giving back, but it turns into a way that this character uses her talent to pour into the the lives of children by communicating in a unique way.
Again, I don’t want to give away the entire story, but I will say that I’ve never been so drawn into the complexity of looking a communicational nuances in the deaf community. I attribute a large part of my interest in Harmel’s ability to visually describe unique hand motions and signing. As a reader, I wanted to lean in and learn more about how facial expressions and casual movements could be used to communicate dramatic story scenes between the music therapist and children.
Next Up: The Rue on Room Amelie
I highly recommend this book to rom-com fans and literature addicts. You will enjoy meeting dynamic characters that surpass surfacey tropes of the jerk jock boyfriend, the flirty best friend, or the overbearing mother-in-law.
The characters in this book are revealed with moments of transperancy reavealing people who represent flawed humanity, romantic idealism, frustrating realism and everyday disappointment. The settings may push the limits of your imagination, but the interactions are real, relatable.
Harmel still provides the level of intrigue provided by her book published 7 years prior, The Art of French Kissing, but builds a richer story of another woman searching for love.
Can’t wait to find out what happens in the next book I bought, The Room on Rue Amelie.