Title:The Man I Love
Series: The Fish Tales #1
Author: Suanne Laqueur
Release Date: June 16, 2014
Rating: 5 stars
Winner of a gold medal in the 2015 Readers' Favorite Book Awards, Suanne Laqueur's astonishing debut novel follows an adult man's emotional journey to salvage relationships destroyed in his youth.
As a college freshman, Erik Fiskare is drawn to the world of theater but prefers backstage to center stage. The moment he lays eyes on a beautiful, accomplished dancer named Daisy Bianco, his atoms rearrange themselves and he is drawn into a romance both youthfully passionate and maturely soulful. Their love story thrives within a tight-knit circle of friends, all bound by creativity and artistry. A newcomer arrives--a brilliant but erratic dancer with an unquenchable thirst for connection. And when this disturbed friend turns violent and vindictive, the story is forever changed, the circle is broken and a shocking act of betrayal causes Erik to leave school and disconnect from all he loves. He buries his heartbreak and puts the past behind. Or so he believes.
As he moves into adulthood, Erik slowly heals the most wounded parts of his soul. But the unresolved grief for Daisy continues to shape his dreams at night. Once those dreams were haunted by blood. Now they are haunted by the refrain of a Gershwin song and a single question: is leaving always the end of loving?
Spanning 15 years, The Man I Love explores themes of love and sexuality, trauma—physical and mental—and its long-lasting effects, the burden of unfinished business and the power of reconciliation. Through Erik’s experience we reflect on what it means to be a man, a son and a leader. A soul mate, a partner and a lover. What it means to live the truth of who you are and what you feel. What it means to fight for what you love.
[ No (hide spoiler)]
Of all the books I have ever read, this may be the absolute hardest for me to sit down and review. There are books that you finish and you're speechless because you can't seem to find anything to talk about. And then there are books like these that make you speechless for a whole other reason. The feelings of inadequacy and the inability to share the sheer magnitude of what this book has to offer is sitting hard on my shoulders. But as Suanne tells us in the end of The Man I Love,
"It doesn't have to be a thing. Just breathe yourself onto the paper..."
And that's just what I'm going to do. Because my experience reading the book was that I lived it. It's the kind of book that's so raw and honest that you're inhaling this book, by the chapter, by the paragraph, down to each word. It settles in until the story is your oxygen and you can't catch your next breath. So now, this is me. Exhaling.
First and foremost, what is this book about? To me, a celebration of life. And some who read it might ask, "Are you crazy? This book is anything but a celebration." This book is brutal in it's depiction of human pain. I can honestly say I have never experienced such hurt for two characters in any other book. Their tears were my tears. Their agony was coursing through my body and I couldn't stop reading until I saw them start to heal. So why is it a celebration?
Inside the pain was violent beauty. A love that blossomed quickly and fiercely and through tragedy started to implode slowly...until the final blow ripped them apart. There was human failures and mistakes, a toxicity that was beyond their control and poisoned something that this couple found so simply. They gave up on each other, but their love didn't give up on them. Through years of separation, trying to forget, and struggling within themselves, one conclusion is made by Erik:
"At some point, you just have to start living the truth."
The love story between Erik and Dais was vast and complex. It's not a fictional fairytale of contrived plastic drama and bandaging bullet holes to satisfy the masses. It's gritty, and harsh, and turbulent. These two characters have to finally own their pasts, their present, and they find strength in letting the weakness in and overcoming it. The hope that forms for the future wraps all around you...through everything they have battled, you know in your heart that there is no one else for either of them.
"I love us," she whispered.
He smiled, feeling the world to his bones. "I love us, too."
Some would label this simply a second chance love story. In essence, I guess you could say that. But it's much more than that, it's an expression of love, tragedy, pain, fear, struggle, discovery, recovery, hope, truth, and a million more things.
If you've heard things about this book that scare you, I've been sitting where you're sitting. If you think there's not a snowball's chance in hell you'll enjoy something so difficult, I walked in your shoes. But I'm here, saying, it reached me, at a deep level-and I won't regret putting my hesitation aside, closing my eyes, and pushing past my boundaries. My expectations and preconceptions are rubble...I'm so far outside "the box" that I've lost it completely. And as a reader, that is something that is so rare and valuable, I know I'll never forget this story.
Suanne Laqueur, if you ever read this, thank you for being so brave. Thank you for giving us the story as it was meant to be told and not taking the easy way out. This book was poetry and perfectly imperfect. I wouldn't have it any other way.
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