Owen has been struggling with addiction since he was a teenager, but it takes a DUI involving another vehicle for him to finally face his issues. The road to recovery is a rough one, and for Owen it’s a journey made harder by bankruptcy, loneliness, and repressed memories.
His new apartment doesn’t help either. It’s small, worn, and hot as hell. The only way to reach it is a tedious stretch of stairs that seems like the final insult on top of a whole pile of misery. Thankfully, the mess comes with one bright spot: intense, pretty Sebastian, who seems to have a knack for keeping his head up and finding the beauty in everything.
The fascination with this novel lies in how the problem of addiction and the beauty of romance come together so perfectly without making this story the usual read.
The reason for this comes from the exceptional characters Owen and Sebastian as well as the way AF Henley handled both subjects of addiction and love. He walked a fine line here and avoided cliché in a brilliant way!
Although an addiction rarely comes from nowhere, AF Henley did an awesome job on simply placing blame. Instead he makes Owen become aware of where his problems come from and confront them.
Being an addict to alcohol since being a teenager, Owen finally ruined his life after a second DUI and lost all he had as a grown man: a partner, a well paid job, a house. As a result, he is bankrupt and had to move into a miserable apartment. Here he meets younger „Baba“ Sebastian, who is working at the building. Owen begins to like Sebastian because the younger man has a certain way of looking at life and his sometimes cryptic musings fascinate Owen.
But falling in love and a new relationship is out of the question for Owen as he has to follow a program with very strict rules that demands to exclude becoming involved with another person to protect them from your issues before you become strong enough yourself to deal with them.
Here the strong and thoughtful story becomes brilliant. Although Owen knows that he needs the program, he hates it. Henley shows that while those programs can be helpful as a general guide, they come with a catch. The addictive is tied to them so strict sometimes that he can become too dependent. In a way another addiction that could prevent that the addictive becomes a person of self-respect and staining on his own feet again.
One of my favorite moments in this story is when Owen comes back one day from his grocery run and walks up all those dreaded stairs to his apartment. When he notices something in the hallway because all the time he was looking down instead raising his head and looking up. A wonderful analogy of how you will miss things that might better your life if you allow your regrets and sorrows block you from realizing that there is hope and the possibility of a brighter future. That moment, although it seems to be a simple one is not only very beautiful but also a turning point in the story.
Here comes in Baba. Troubled by his own problems, he shows Owen that a person needs more than rules to be able to deal with his issues. This throws Owen into an internal conflict between what he is being told what is right and what must be and what his heart tells him to do. As a result, Owen tries to keep Sebastian at distance.
The supporting characters in this novel, Owen’s brother, his mom and his counsel, are a very important and integral part of the story because they, to a certain extend, made and make Owen the person he was and that he becomes in the end.
I highly recommend this novel for its powerful characters, the thoughtfulness and strong dialogues, very romantic and hot moments and a wonderful happy end!