Desert Isle Keeper
Catch Us When We Fall
Catch Us When We Fall pairs a Sweet Dee (of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-fame) esque heroine with a handsome, snarky baseball player. Our female lead is a barrel of laughs and tough talk, a working class world is well-established and some very true truths about alcoholism and dysfunctional families are explored, but the slightly uncomfortable main romantic conceit keeps this book from shining to its fullest.
Cass Macklin and Ben McGreavy were two peas in a pod from the age of eighteen onward. Though Ben was brilliant (he even placed third on an episode of Jeopardy!) and Cass was devoted, their social drinking soon turned into a major problem for both of them. Ostracized from their families and floating on a raft of monetary loans, they inhabited a world of dive bars, alcohol, and good times. By almost thirty, they were binge drinkers. The end result of all of that partying is Ben’s too-early death at the age of twenty-nine.
Cass finds out she’s pregnant soon afterwards, and becomes determined to raise her child in a sober environment. Going stone-cold sober is going to take a herculean effort from someone who drinks as much as Cass does – she even works at a bar. And so, on the verge of homelessness, she turns to Ben’s brother, major league baseball player Scott McGreavy, for shelter and support to keep herself fed and sane.
Scott and Ben didn’t have great childhoods – their father was physically abusive, their mother emotionally so – which left Scott with anger management issues and turned Ben into a zombie. The last thing now-successful Scott wants to do is mop up the last of Ben’s messes, but he knows Cass, and thinks protecting his future niece or nephew is worth the danger.
As Scott and Cass get to know each other better and she starts making friends and putting down roots, they must confront their burgeoning romantic attraction to one another. Will Cass be able to adjust to motherhood? And will Scott be able to adjust to the notion of letting someone in?
Catch Us When We Fall is at turns funny, touching and relatable. I loved Cass, the sarcastic, foul-mouthed realist with a vulnerable side that she is. But it’s hard for me not to have issues with the central conceit of the romance here, which is why I can’t give the book a full-on A.
And yes, I doubt I’m spoiling anything by revealing that Cass and Scott do have a romantic relationship in this novel, and yes, they sleep together before the baby is born, though they’re not officially a couple in the romantic sense until the child’s a few months old and after several devastating health setbacks. They are friends first, which works well in general.
But some readers will balk at this topic; I admit that I did so myself. If the notion of a woman pregnant with her long-term boyfriend’s baby getting together with his semi-estranged brother feels awkward to you, you will find this a squirmy novel to read. It doesn’t help that Ben feels like an unresolved cipher of a character – we know he’s brilliant, that his addiction was a way to cover his lifelong hurt over the way his crappy parents treated him, that it was deep addiction he bore and he and Cass had formed a folie à deux around it. The reader learns that Cass is devastated by his death, we watch her mourn in real time, mourning which happens throughout the novel. But her quick switch to the healthier option that is Scott feels too abrupt, even as it’s heavily foreshadowed by giving us flashbacks to Cass and Scott’s first meetings.
Cass’ journey isn’t an easy one, and the book is good at portraying it; but her realization that Ben would have prevented her sobriety and the relatively healthy birth of her child doesn’t make her getting together with Scott in under nine months’ time after Ben’s death any less bewildering.
And yet Cass and Scott work as a romantic pairing because their progress from friends to lovers makes sense and is well written. They change but don’t lose themselves in each other’s care, and they are imperfect, abrupt, hasty individuals who still know how to make each other better people. Maybe if they’d gotten together when Cass’ child was older this would have been an A grade read.
All of this especially comes into contrast with the very realistic processing of Cass’ addiction. Fay’s work in this regard is excellent, as it is when it comes to Cass’ unresolved feelings about the loss of her mother.
I also enjoyed the friends Cass picks up during the course of the novel – Laurel, a rich mother of four with a large dog and an uncaring husband, whose neglect has turned her in the direction of alcoholism, and Kate, an alcoholic friend of Cass’ who has an abusive partner.
Catch Us When We Fall grows on the reader as the pages pass by. Bitter and sweet, sour and tender, it’s not afraid to ask some tough questions of its readers, and wins even though some of the answers might not be quite what they want to hear.
Note:: There is a heavy subplot involving domestic violence in this book, along with a sharp exploration of alcoholism.