Until There Was You
Ms. Higgins states in the foreword that this book is a first for her, exploring the hero’s point of view. I have to say that being in the mind of two semi-neurotic characters definitely had an impact on my enjoyment. In Until There Was You, Ms. Higgins also continues her custom of making up exclamations of surprise. At least I hope she is creating them for her book, and that there not a section of the country that actually talks like this. Still, there are many touching scenes and Ms. Higgins does entertain.
Cordelia “Posey” Osterhagen had her heart broken by Liam Declan Murphy. After moving to Bellsford, New Hampshire his junior year, Liam, with his gorgeous looks, his reputation, (he spent time in juvie for stealing cars) his mode of transportation (Triumph motorcycle) and his coolness factor (he plays the guitar in a band that performs at a sleazy bar and has a tattoo) immediately becomes the guy. Of course Liam can have any girl that he wants and he definitely partakes of the smorgasbord.
Invisible, underdeveloped Posey admires him from afar, since there is no way “God’s gift” could ever notice her, until the day the deities take pity on her. That day she comes home from school to discover that Liam is now working for her parents in their German restaurant, Guten Tag. Posey’s imagination knows no bounds as she dreams of being his BFF, then falling in love, of course college, and then marriage – except Liam hasn’t received that memo. Sure they bond a little over the stray cat, Joe, but once he disappears Liam goes back to ignoring her.
Then Posey’s sophomore year and Liam’s senior year, Emma Tate returns to town. Liam and Emma take one look at each other and people watching can almost see hearts form over their heads. Posey can’t hate Emma or fault Liam because Emma is perfect. Nice, great sense of style, rich, and gorgeous. Emma even befriends Posey, and then in an act of kindness arranges a date for her to the prom. The best night of her life is destroyed when she hears Liam call her a “bag of bones,” causing her date to ditch her. After graduating, Emma leaves New Hampshire for college in California and Liam follows. Posey reads of their marriage, and then the birth of their daughter, Nicole. Now Liam is widowed, and has moved back to town. Even though Posey has a lover, her feelings of infatuation take flight as soon as she sees him.
Liam fell in love with Emma at first sight, and even with their difficulties he never stopped loving her. In her senior year of college, Emma bleakly tells Liam that she is three weeks late. While Emma’s underlying thought is of being trapped, Liam feels like he has discovered his destiny. They marry, and Liam is Nicole’s primary caregiver while Emma finishes college and then law school. Sadly they are not immune to the typical tribulations two people face when they marry young. Distance develops between them as they have less and less in common, with more arguments and less communication, but they disguise it with their shared love for Nicole. Then Emma is diagnosed with leukemia and any chance of bridging the gap is cruelly taken away. It now has been over two years since her death, and Liam misses having a partner to help guide Nicole through adolescence, especially dating and SEX. Not that he is going to allow his daughter to do either. He knows exactly what the boys in her class are thinking. Emma’s parents want to spend more time with their granddaughter, so he moves back New Hampshire and opens a custom bike shop. Of course he didn’t realize that he would be stepping into a minefield with all his old loves either wanting to comfort or dismember him. Surprisingly he finds an ally in Posey. She is funny and irreverent, with luscious lips.
There are so many things that work in this book. I love the fact that Liam still remembers Emma with love, even though their marriage wasn’t problem-free. And I also loved that his daughter is his top priority. His relationship with Cordelia develops over time, and is both funny and touching. Posey remembers Emma as a kind, giving individual, and is not threatened by his past. She shares memories, and memorabilia with Nicole in numerous touching scenes. Posey is not one of your aimless heroines. She is adopted, but feels loved and secure with her family. She is single with no children at thirty-three, but she has a great business, wonderful friends, and acts as a big sister to a vulnerable young girl.
The book definitely made me laugh but it is very uneven at times because everyone becomes a “character”. Creating zany characters is nothing new for Ms. Higgins, but I don’t remember her early books having so many of them. Posey’s best friend adopted a child but she is written as having an overly symbiotic relationship with her son. Liam is your typical, overprotective dad, which is humorous one or two times, but over the course of the book gets very old and can feel unhealthy. Posey’s parents have a wacky German restaurant, where people chant “zicke zacke, zicke zache, hoi, hoi, hoi”. Posey’s gay brother, Henry, is an orthopedic surgeon obsessed with amputations (which actually is funny)and married to the perfect man, a home economics teacher. And then there is the crazy use of interjections such as bieber, (after Justin Bieber) gack, squee, crikey, clenching and meowing girl parts, slitty eyes of death,and holy Elvis Presley that diminished the emotional impact of the book. At one point I wondered if Ms. Higgins was writing more for teenagers than adults.
I was all set to give this book a C+ but in writing the review I kept coming across the many poignant moments crossing generations between mother/daughter, father/daughter, brother/sister that I overlooked because of my obsession with “beiber” as an exclamation and the clenching and meowing girl parts. Ultimately I am giving a qualified recommendation to this book. The parts that are good are really good, and they almost make me forget the author’s creative use of words.