Review: Swear on this Life by Renée Carlino

Title: Swear on This Life
Author: Renée Carlino
Publication Date: August 2016 (Atria)
Pages: 306
Genre: Romance
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Book Depository|

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction? [Goodreads]

Carlino outdoes herself as she gives us two stories in one novel: the present world, which follows Emiline struggling with her current relationship, and a novel written by J. Colby. But the J. Colby novel is also Emiline’s childhood. It did get a little exhausting at times and I am guilty of skimming one part of it.

After Emiline’s housemate, Cara, raves about the novel From All the Roads Between, Emiline reads it to escape her real life dilemmas. She gets she’s sucked in straight away, not because of the fiction but because it rings the truth. Her truth. And she knows who J. Colby is, Jase, her childhood best friend and someone she hasn’t seen in over a decade. But now he feels it’s okay to write about her life?! Fury and rage! Especially when he spills the truth about her private home life, with exaggeration to make it more dramatic.

Emiline reacted like any normal person and I liked how Carlino touched on the complexity about using personal and real life situations in a novel. It challenges the idea of writing as a whole – what is real? what is made up? But also what is acceptable. To Emiline and everyone in the book it seemed acceptable. I didn’t feel that way but each to their own…

It’s funny how when we get older we think more about our childhood freedom and friendships, but there was something in Carlino’s writing that didn’t hit a cord as much. From All the Roads Between was too gimmicky and left me feeling detached from Emiline, as we weren’t reading Emiline’s real feelings but a retelling and from Jase’s view point.

Writing a novel for someone and reiterating the terrible life someone once had doesn’t sound like a romantic gesture, no matter what the ending.

My rating:

It was okay

2 cups

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