I would like to thank Net Galley and Bookouture for the advance copy of ‘When I Lost You’ by Kelly Rimmer.
Molly and Leo are a couple in crisis. Recently separated, they believe they have little left in common, their very different and very separate lives being a hurdle that was just too high to clear. Molly is rich, daughter of a high powered media mogul, and her parents disapprove of Leo as he is a man from the wrong side of the street, a man who Molly’s father wrongly believes had a part in her brother’s death. Leo is a war correspondent, a man who has built his whole life around exposing the darker more human side of conflict zones across the globe.
But none of that matters now. No matter how complicated Molly thought their lives had become, they are now a dozen times worse. Leo has been badly hurt in an explosion resulting in him being left unable to walk and unable to remember any of their past three years together. Molly sets aside her attempt to rebuild her life after Leo to help he remember his own, a last act of love for the man she just cannot let go of. As he slowly rebuilds his memory, will it give them the opportunity to wipe the slate clean, or will it drive a bigger wedge between the two forcing them to fall in and out of love all over again?
Told from both Leo and Molly’s point of view, it is set in two very distinct parts. Part one follows Molly’s version of the present day, Leo’s story being told in a series of flashbacks as he slowly begins to recall snatches of the past. Molly is patient with Leo, while all the time knowing that she is deceiving him, helping him to recover memories of a happy marriage that is no longer theirs. This is an excellent plot device as there would be no value to the reader in hearing Leo’s view of the present at the start, he is largely confined to a hospital bed, reliant on others to help him recover lost memories, whereas Molly is key to understanding the truth of where this relationship is. Leo tells us how they met, Molly tells us how they are tearing apart.
In part two, the present is told from Leo’s perspective and the memories are Molly’s and it charts the more volatile moments in the couple’s recent past. Leo is slowly regaining memories, becoming more confident in who he is and more capable in spite of his physical difficulties and it is Molly who takes the tour bus into the past, showing and telling us what Leo cannot yet remember. The truth of how and why they started to drift apart. And one key moment from this whole episode is really Molly’s to tell, a secret which drove them apart once and could easily devastate them again.
For me this is a well observed story of two very different people. Their early days are filled with passion and desire for each other and also a sense of pride in what each of them achieves. But along with the pride comes a stubbornness, a failure of either of them to properly communicate and this, ultimately is what leads to their downfall. And yet Leo’s memory loss, being faced with having nothing left to lose, is enough to push them towards trying to do better.
This is the second book I have read from Kelly Rimmer. It is emotionally charged, especially towards the end as things in the relationship really start to unravel, but there are also some moments of quiet beauty where the romance between Molly and Leo takes centre stage. There is an easy style to the writing, the narrative flowing and the descriptions of the different suburbs of Sydney enough to draw you in and the portrayal of Molly and Leo so real that it will leave you in a quandary. I think there is the chance for the characters to be polarising. It is easy to sympathise with Molly, the poor wife left at home alone while the daredevil husband goes off to risk his life year after year. And it would be simple to dislike Leo who appears to be more obsessed with his career than in protecting his marriage but for me it wasn’t that straight forward, and that is the beauty of this book. Both of the characters are flawed in their own way but that is why I loved them.
Molly at times (albeit sometimes in Leo’s befuddled mind) came across as a bit spoilt and some of the poor me complaints could be a little annoying. But Leo, while in his early memories he seemed romantic and protective of Molly, also came across as a bit of a jerk, forgetting anniversaries, failing to return home at Christmas and practically Neanderthal in his views on joint finances. That said, I kind of liked Leo, being able to identify more with the struggles he had in his childhood and how he had fought for everything her had as opposed to Molly, a child of absolute privilege that she came across as so ‘entitled’ she had never even ridden a train. The sacrifices or ‘compromises’ Molly made for Leo held nearly as much need for compromise from him. They are different in mind, background and style. They just shouldn’t work. And yet as the story unfolds, as you understand their motivations and their paranoia, as you learn more of the beautiful moments in their relationship, captured so simply and yet effectively, you know that they do. You want them to change and you will them to find a way forward. Together.
I am not a romantic person, entirely the opposite in fact, but I loved this book. A full 5 stars.