Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton

Can love blossom even under the worst circumstances? Is it possible to fall in love with a voice and quiet conversations in the dead of night? Or does the bond from shared physical and emotional injuries fade when you recover? Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton tackles those questions by showing two people navigating seemingly unsurmountable problems.

Alice has been seriously burned in a fire at her office. As well as struggling to recover from serious injuries, she must face the fact that she is permanently disfigured. Deeply depressed, she retreats into silence, refusing to talk or to allow anyone to visit her.

When she has begun to recover from the worst of her burns, Alice is transferred to a rehabilitation ward where her bed, surrounded by curtains, is placed next to Alfie whose leg had to be amputated after a horrific car accident. Alfie is talkative, always bantering with the other patients and nurses, always optimistic. That he has been told to respect Alice’s wishes and not talk to her or engage her in his pranks is just about killing him. Slowly, the comradery of the ward begins to tug at Alice and one day she begins talking again, to Alfie. From behind the privacy of her curtain she makes a connection with Alfie and they become friends and maybe more.

The bubble of the rehab ward cannot last forever and first Alfie and then Alice must reenter the outside world, a world that has moved on while each of them has been changed drastically, physically and emotionally. Will they be able to begin again, and is there a possibility for the two of them to be together?

This was a very quick read and while overall it is mostly upbeat, it deals with some serious issues such as overcoming tragedy, rebuilding a life you hadn’t expected and trusting yourself. Ultimately, it is about hope and love and new beginnings.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is a powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again.

 At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State-and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise”. But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail.

Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. (description from publisher)