From infertility to miscarriage to marital problems to mental breakdowns to alcoholism to dementia to a multitude of teenage angst, The Art of Losing Yourself paints a portrait of people with real issues – tough issues – and packs a pretty emotional punch. Yet, even at the darkest moments, beautiful waves of hope saturate this novel – hope for redemption, hope for truth, hope for joy.
Carmen Hart is struggling to hold it all together – the perfect image, the perfect marriage, the perfect dream. Her beloved Aunt Ingrid has dementia, and her beloved Aunt Ingrid’s treasured classic of a motel is falling apart. Carmen’s once dream-come-true marriage has weakened under the strain of 6 miscarriages, and now their possibility of adoption and even Carmen’s job are threatened by a fairly public meltdown. And then her half-sister Gracie shows up – a 17-year-old running away from their alcoholic mother & caught squatting in the now-derelict motel that Aunt Ingrid so adores. With no other options, Carmen and her husband Ben take the difficult Gracie into their home and are forced to make some decisions about the motel… and maybe their marriage.
Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?
Oh my goodness, y’all. This book had me transfixed. Absolutely riveted from beginning to end. Katie Ganshert tackles a bunch of tough topics with grace and compassion and TALENT. So much talent. The dual first-person narrative (going back and forth between Carmen’s perspective and Gracie’s perspective) was so unique and added a deeply personal aspect to the story that I think might have been lacking in a third person voice. I ached for each one of them in turn and hung on every word to see what would happen next.
Ben & Carmen just about broke my heart. Even though we saw their marriage from Carmen’s POV, Katie Ganshert did a magnificent job of capturing Ben’s emotions through his actions, his expressions, his words. We don’t get his thoughts but I never felt like I needed them – it was so much more powerful without them, in my opinion. And the flashbacks! Oh my heart. Watching them fall in love with the grinning and the flirting and the kisses. And the key relationship moments – seriously, I wasn’t sure my heart could handle it. I fell in love with them … and I wanted them back. The them that began at The Treasure Chest Motel before life numbed Carmen to the feels. THE FEELS!!! You guys!!! Ben and THE FEELS! I know I am making so little sense right now. But you must read this book and then you will get my poorly-structured ramblings about Ben and his emotions and his love and AHHH!! This book tore. me. up.
And Gracie. Oh goobers – where to start with Gracie. Broken fragile little girl wrapped up in a snarky insecure teenage body. She’s so used to people rejecting her that she doesn’t know quite what to do with the ones that refuse to let go. The people… and God. From the moment Eli asks her who she says Jesus is, Gracie is confronted with the idea that Someone out there cares. But yeah… that realization doesn’t come easy when every time she puts her heart on the line it gets crushed and humiliated.
Which brings up my next point. There are some mighty powerful truths encased in this book. Things like – sometimes all you can do is get through something because “some things in life we aren’t meant to get over”. Or the sobering fact of entropy, that nature is predisposed toward disorder and unless we actively fight against it things will fall apart – “motels and marriages alike.” (I felt the whole concept of the motel ruin and restoration was a brilliant metaphor for the potential of Carmen and Ben’s marriage. How it had fallen into disrepair because of neglect and what it would take to undo all the damage. The last scene – brilliant.) Along those lines, this quote of Aunt Ingrid’s hit me in the heart – “Not all things are worth saving. But some are worth every ounce of fight you can throw at them. You just have to know the difference.”
And the ending?!? I refuse to spoil things for you but it’s not your typical ending. And I loved that about it. (Ok. Part of me scrolled frantically to find more of the book, an epilogue, anything! But most of me applauded it for its realism and hope.)
Bottom Line: This is not an “easy” read – it will tear at your heart & your soul. But it will also plant vivid seeds of hope in the power of redemption and restoration. You will probably need a box of tissues – especially if you’ve ever found yourself in a storm of any of the issues I mentioned at the beginning – but these tears can bring sweet healing. I highly recommend this book, especially if you love contemporary fiction and aren’t a huge fan of sappy romance.
I give The Art of Losing Yourself 5 out of 5 stars!
(I received a digital copy of this novel from the publisher in conjunction with Blogging For Books in exchange for only my honest review.)
Award-winning author Katie Ganshert graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate. You can learn more about Katie and her books by visiting her website or author Facebook page.