Feels Like Falling
I’ve been on a bit of a Women’s Fiction kick lately – something about being in isolation with my family has me looking for books with a wider cast of characters focused more on personal development than the romantic. Feels Like Falling is exactly this, as it tells the stories of two very different women crossing paths at a pivotal moment in each of their lives.
Gray Howard has come crawling back to the North Carolina coast with her tail between her legs this summer. She’s a self-made CEO in her thirties with a beautiful son, gorgeous summer house and, until this year, a loving husband. Unfortunately, that husband recently left her for his secretary, so Gray is not feeling like the successful, confident woman she knows herself to be. Instead, she just wants to hold on tight to her son and hide from the questioning eyes of her friends.
For all that Gray’s situation elicits sympathy, Diana Harrington’s is far worse. After breaking up with her deadbeat boyfriend, she is essentially homeless. That boyfriend also stole the bit of money she had saved to pay for her dental surgery, so it’s only by the grace of a philanthropic dentist and friend that she’s able to get a tooth pulled and crown put in pro bono. But that’s where her luck ends, as a run-in with a dissatisfied customer gets her fired from her job developing photos at a local drugstore.
Diana grew up with a drug-addict mother before landing in foster care, so life has taught her to manage for herself through difficult times. Even though she has many friends, she’s extremely uncomfortable going to them for help or handouts. Diana prefers to be the caretaker, not the person who needs caring for, so when she loses her only source of income, her first instinct is to track down the customer responsible and give the woman a piece of her mind….and possibly guilt her into getting Diana her job back. After all, it’s the least she could do. And so it is that Diana Harrington finds herself on Gray Howard’s doorstep.
I will admit, this initial encounter and the way it develops into a working relationship is the weakest part of the book. Gray is overcome by guilt over unintentionally getting Diana fired, and she readily agrees to talk to Diana’s boss about hiring her back. But then she hears from the manager that Diana had received multiple warnings about her photo skills, and realizes this strange woman wasn’t completely honest with her. So Gray chooses to forget about it until Diana shows up at her house again and, through an odd set of circumstances involving Gray’s assistant and Diana’s tendency to organize things when she’s stressed, Gray hires Diana as her housekeeper.
It requires more than a little suspension of disbelief to think that a successful CEO like Gray would hire a virtual stranger – who had already lied to her – to work in her house. But Harvey acknowledges the strangeness of this, playing up the rapport between Gray and Diana and exposing the loneliness in Gray as she sends her son off for a month in Europe with his father. Gray needs a companion, and Diana needs to be needed. And somehow that works for them.
The story that unfolds over the next 200 pages is a far cry from a straightforward romance. Gray enjoys a summer fling with a twenty-six-year-old grad student, but goes through a riot of emotions about it. Is he too young? Is he getting emotionally attached? Is she getting emotionally attached? For the first time in years Gray allows herself to stop being perfectly in control, and it’s clearly a strange feeling. Meanwhile, Diana learns how to take back control of her life with Gray’s help. She starts to stockpile savings for the tiny restaurant she’s always dreamed of running, and begins to make concrete plans toward that future.
I absolutely loved the writing and characterization in this story. Although they may not have found each other in a conventional way, Gray and Diana become true friends over the course of the book. They complement each other and help each other work through the personal issues of self-doubt and self-sabotage which have been holding them back. And when the dust settles in the end, neither Gray nor Diana have perfect lives – Gray is still divorced, Diana’s family is still struggling to get along – but they have happier lives.