This beautifully queer-tinged novel by author Suzie Carr tells a story of recovery from loss, nurtured by nature, and a blossoming love.
Suzie Carr (author of, amongst others, The Muse and Sandcastles), this time delivers a story of sudden loss and the slow process of recovery from it.
Jacky runs a dog training school and is known locally as a dog whisperer. She lives with her teenage step-daughter, Sophie. Their relationship has become strained after harsh words said in anger have never been forgotten. Enter Brooke, a beekeeper and exponent of meditative podcasts, who has need of a dog trainer to help her tame the over-protective stray dog she took in. When Brooke and Jacky meet, it’s immediately apparent that there is a deep and loving connection possible between them, but Jacky’s guilt is standing in the way of it.
This book has some extraordinarily evocative passages in it. The character Brooke believes profoundly in the healing power of nature, and that concept is explored by the author in the way Brooke nurtures Sophie and Jacky during their journeys through grief, and their relationship with each other. That’s not to say that Brooke is only there to be a therapist to them—far from it. We learn about Brooke’s own fears and insecurities and we follow her path in learning to trust a potential partner again. The language Carr uses is gorgeous, exploring the ideas of nature as nurturer; the life of a bee colony as a metaphor for a better human world; and having the faith to let go of the past without forgetting it. The knowledge of bees and their lifecycles, and their importance to the ecological balance of this planet and our lives, is present throughout the book, and is delivered in a non-preaching but appropriately serious manner. It was fascinating to learn.
While I found the start of the book a little confusing—lots of characters being introduced very quickly in the first couple of chapters—and the flow a little stuck to begin with, it all clicked into place once I got into the meat of the story. The three main characters are very well written. Funnily enough, for me, the romance between Jacky and Brooke actually takes second place to the story of Jacky and Sophie coming to terms with their new relationship. There are some very moving interactions between mother and step-daughter, and the pain and hurt each of them experience is extremely well written, especially when more shocking truths are revealed in the last quarter of the book.
The romance between Jacky and Brooke is gentle, and therefore gently explored. There are no scorching love scenes, and that’s absolutely perfect for this book. The pathway to love for these two women is strewn with obstacles of an emotional nature that can’t be trampled over with gratuitous sex scenes, and Suzie Carr pitches that just right. Though in some places the language of love came across as a little overblown, overall this is a lovely book, and in places breathtakingly beautiful in its composition.