Desert Isle Keeper
The Sight of You
When you google The Sight of You, it comes up with the subheading ‘The Love Story of 2020’ a grandiose statement about a book that is the opposite of grandiose in the most lovely way. The Sight of You is very tender, and there’s a sense of humility in it and in its main characters, that makes you imagine if the book were ‘alive’ it would demur about the marketing scheme. If you’re the sort of person who finishes the sentence ‘Love Is ___’ with the word ‘Kind’, you’ll really appreciate this book.
Joel is a former veterinarian living in somewhere in England (I guess they put Big Ben and London on the cover to tell US readers THIS IS A BRITISH BOOK, but it’s not set in the capital), where he walks dogs and avoids loving more people than he already does. He has “prophetic” dreams about people and their fates, large and small – when and where their kids become talented swimmers, when and where they die – but only about people he loves. And he can change things, to a degree. He’s essentially an anonymous tipper on a grand scale, forever watching over those he loves, and then letting them know just enough to keep them moving towards happiness or away from harm. Then he meets Callie, a waitress/manager of a local coffee shop, and they fall in love. The marketing campaign is spoiler central, so here’s the thing: Joel dreams Callie dies and they have to decide as a couple how to use that information.
Callie’s great love is nature and her attachment to a local nature reserve is an important part of the story. I couldn’t help thinking that she is a living embodiment of a nature reserve. She’s someone who is quiet, delicate, and lovely; in every way worth tending to with care. Joel reminded me of Henry from The Time Traveler’s Wife. At the start, he’s very unhappy and has coped with his life with a certain amount of self-abuse – alcohol, sleep deprivation, social isolation. I was worried at the start that this book would be ‘a downer’ rather than just sad – Callie is in a rut of her own, too, at the start, due to grief at a recent loss, but that didn’t prove to be the case.
One particular thing I found satisfying about this book was that Great Love didn’t excuse Bad Behavior. In stories I have encountered before with this kind of premise, the main characters have used their love/grief to excuse adultery and general mistreatment of secondary characters, who then get painted as ‘sort of shitty anyway’ so that the reader conveniently doesn’t have to feel bad that they’re getting screwed over. Miller doesn’t peddle that absurdity. Everyone in this book is imperfect, but they’re treated with mercy.
The story is told in four parts, in alternating first-person by Callie and Joel, and the chapters are only a few quick pages each. Even though The Sight of You is not genre romance because of its conclusion, it feels like a romance for the first seventy five percent because it focuses on the main characters and their love equally. Only when it shifts more to Callie in the final section, which is full of time jumps and plot developments related to big events in her life, does it feel like women’s fiction. The ending honors the story it concludes – I’d go so far as to say it makes the book. Writing this, I recall I wasn’t overly impressed by the beginning, irritated by the prospect of ‘another-British-waitress-with-unattended-dreams-heroine’– but the ending left me in such a state of contented heartache, that I’m inclined to overlook it. It’s such a whole book ‘as is’ that the fact that a 2021 sequel has already been announced makes me anxious, though I can see easily how a sequel might be seen as natural (I imagine a second book in the vein of the Me Before You series).
Never maudlin or manipulative, The Sight of You touched me so much that I started crying while attempting to explain it to someone.
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore
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