Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Coming Home to You by Liesel Schmidt

Out now
Published by Carina UK
Purchase from Amazon here

The Blurb:

When one door closes…

Zoë and her fiancé Paul had everything ahead of them. So when Paul dies suddenly, Zoë doesn’t recognise the life she’s left with. Helping a friend by housesitting for a stranger is the last thing she wants to do – but she can’t deny that she needs time away from the memories which crowd her flat. So, collecting the keys, Zoë lets herself into her temporary home.…another one opens.

Surrounded by a stranger’s belongings – his toothbrush, his favourite records, the pictures on his walls – Zoë begins to build a picture of the flat’s owner, Neil, who is away in the military. Driven by a need to know more, Zoë begins writing to Neil and finds herself feeling an unlikely connection with him. But while some people are destined to share our lives forever, others are sent simply to help us on the way. And for Zoë, a new life is just beginning…

Proof that life can change in the most unexpected of ways, Coming Home to You is the superbly moving debut from Liesel Schmidt, perfect for fans of Cecilia Ahern and Jojo Moyes.

My Review:

Coming Home to You is a beautifully written debut novel which tells a story of love, loss and learning to live again. It was a book which drew me in immediately and kept me riveted all the way through. 

The main character is Zoe who we find out has lost her fiance Paul, who died suddenly, leaving Zoe totally bereft and lost in the world. She came across to me as someone, as you would expect, who has had her world turned upside down and is totally at a loss on how to carry on. 

Zoe's best friend Kate is working away from home, and as much as others tried to be there for her, as a reader I got the feeling that she was stuck in her grief, and needed something to happen to bring her out of the depths of it all. Zoe goes to her local coffee shop every day where she can be around strangers, and no one knows her story. The owner, Ray, becomes a key character in the book. He overhears a conversation between Zoe and Kate where Kate suggests that Zoe should move away from the apartment she shared with Paul, and try to escape the memories that it has. 

Ray has a friend called Neil that is in the armed forces and is currently positioned away for a few months. He suggests to Zoe that she housesit Neil's place for a while, until he comes home. Whilst living there Zoe starts to contact Neil and have chats via email, where she spills everything out to him. 

The move to Neil's house changes Zoe's life, and I am dying to tell you how, but I dont want to spoil all the twists and turns that I enjoyed! 

I thought I was quite the detective and that I had it all sussed out by a third of the way through the book. Infact I was probably a little bit smug about it. I was wrong!! There are twists in the plot that I never saw coming, and I loved that! It definitely had me muttering 'oh I didnt see that coming' a couple of times.

It is really a story of Zoe finding that life does go on, even when you think it will never happen, and you will never smile or be happy again. Her friends, particularly Ray play a key part in that, and I love books where there are strong friends supporting the main character so this appealed to me. 

I loved the way it was written, and wouldnt have imagined it was a debut novel if I hadn't read that it was. The characters are written with such warmth and I loved the way that Zoe was portrayed. Whilst it was obvious at her heartbreak I didnt feel that she came across as a pitiful person. She was in many ways quite an inspiration, and a strong, ballsy woman. I thought it helped to show that when you hit rock bottom dont give up. You can pick yourself back up and achieve your goals if you set your mind to it, with a little support along the way.

I love Ray. He is the type of friend I would love to have in my life. He was there for Zoe no matter what, and I felt always looked out for her in whatever way he could. There is one scene where Zoe has had a bit of a turn. Ray turns up unexpectedly to find her in a mess with vomit in her hair, and like a lost soul. Rather than judge her he just cleaned her up and took charge. I loved his empathy and unconditional love, particularly as he hadnt know her that long. He was definitely a little guardian angel and I hope I can be a friend like that if I am ever needed (ok, cleaning vomit may be a bit too much for me!!). He has his own story and I just love him.

As you will see from the blurb, once she is living in Neil's place, Zoe starts to wonder about Neil and who he is. She is living amongst his stuff and it feels quite intimate to do so. She starts writing to him via email and he starts to write back. I loved the email exchanges. They were at times quite amusing, but it helped me build a real empathy for, and get to know Zoe better. For example, her foray into dating is debated with herself in one of the emails. 

I am itching to reveal more about what happens, and some of the other characters, but to do so would be unfair in my opinion, as it would rob you of the beauty of the book. Just trust me, there are some gorgeous moments where we see what love and compassion is. The ending is magical for me. It had me up to the small hours of the night and I was totally engrossed. I had to find out what would happen. Whilst I found it really intense and moving I ended the book with a feeling of energy and calm, and felt quite inspired that life is for living. It was quite poignant for me at the moment, and I wonder if it could be quite a strong book for others struggling too. 

Liesel is an author who, for me, has conjured up a great balance between sadness and all the emotions that go along with loss and grief, but also hope, and inspiration that life can go on and you can battle through. I found it beautiful and laughed, cried and felt strong and ready to face the world by the end of it. 

The blurb is right in that it would appeal to fans of Cecilia Ahern, Jojo Moyes and I would add Rowan Coleman, Hannah Beckerman and Carmel Harrington to that list. 

Right, I am off to make the most of today!

Thank you to Carina UK who provided a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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