Tuesday, 26 November 2013

By My Side

By My Side by Alice Peterson
Paperback, 376 pages

Published 18th July 2013 by Quercus

arc-or-review, better-than-expected, books-i-own, chick-lit, lasting-impression, medical-conditions, mum-has, read, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

One step can change everything… 

Cass Brooks loves her job, her boyfriend Sean, her life. Until, leaving home one morning, distracted and hungover, she steps into the path of a truck. 

When she wakes up, she can’t walk. And suddenly all her hopes and dreams, the plans she’d made with Sean, the future she thought she’d have, seem out of her reach. 

But then fate intervenes again. Cass meets Ticket, a loyal golden Labrador who refuses to leave her side. And on a flight to Colorado, she sits next to Charlie, who believes he can show her a life full of possibilities, if only she’ll let him. 

Cass wants her life back the way it was. Charlie knows this cannot be. Yet a future beckons all the same...

When I was sent this book for review, I have to be honest and say that I wasn't sure what to expect. Though I thought the blurb was certainly intriguing, I also had my reservations. My main issue was that there's an animal involved in the story - I am an animal lover and I tend to steer away from anything that could possibly involve animals getting hurt or lost or anything like that, as I find it hard to read about. The book did, however, seem to imply that the dog was a real symbol of positivity and hope, and so I did decide to give the book a go. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about and I soon started to enjoy the book. 

Though I've read quite a few books in the chick-lit and women's fiction categories, I am still discovering what I like and what I don't like as these genres are so huge. I like quite a bit of depth and detail in the novels I read, and I realise that some books that are marketed as chick-lit lack a certain amount of substance. This book is certainly not one of those books - this is a book that really made me sit back and think about a lot of important things. Despite its pretty cover, there's a really hard-hitting and emotional story in this book. This story is a love story, but it's certainly one hell of a journey too, introducing us to many difficult situations, (physical and emotional) and it certainly taught me something along the way.

There is an abundance of well thought-out, structured and individual people in this book and I especially loved our protagonist, Cass. Cass is a young woman, who has her life turned upside down after having an accident which confines her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. As well as that, her boyfriend decides to leave her as she lies in hospital. I can only imagine how Cass felt, but Peterson did a fantastic job of portraying it. I am so glad that Peterson didn't sugarcoat the issue in any way. Cass realistically found adjusting to her new life difficult and I admire how she handled it. It was interesting to see everything that changed for Cass and it really did show how much people take for granted. This book really was eye opening and I would hope that it will be for many others. The way that Peterson once again very realistically helped her face and overcome hurdles was truly inspiring.

Relationships, especially friendships were vital to Cass during her recovery and I really loved reading about the people that she met and befriended after her accident. Cass made two fantastic friends at hospital and then when she became involved with an organisation who helped disabled people find canine partners who can help them with everyday living, she met a lot of new friends there. Whilst on a trip away with an organisation for those with spinal injuries, Cass met Charlie.  I didn't  actually know anything about these sort of organisations, so it was interesting and very heartwarming to hear about how they worked. I particularly loved reading about Cass and her relationship with her working dog, Ticket, as it was so fantastic to see their bond together and to see how much Ticket improved Cass's life. It was also very interesting to see how it all worked. 

As I mentioned, amongst other things and mixed up relationships, this story is a love story. I have to say that I was kept up late at night reading this book, turning page after page and quite frankly, getting so annoyed with the characters! The author did a fantastic job of creating tension between Cass and Charlie, I don't think I've ever wanted to grab two characters, put them together and shout 'kiss already!' to both of them! The couple of characters are so genuine and they just worked together so well. I actually liked that they had had issues to resolve though as once again, it gave a sense of authenticity to their story.

Another character that I feel as though I have to mention as he had a huge impact upon me was Guy. I will not reveal anything about him in this review, because his story is something that has a real impact when you read it, but once again, Peterson hit us with some harsh reality.

Overall, after the first quarter of the book, I was absolutely gripped, it was a certain page turner. By My Side really opened my eyes to the life of those who have spinal injury and definitely taught me a lot about the issues that those who are confined to a wheelchair every day. More than that though, it taught me to not take anything for advantage and it also inspired me and gave me a real sense of hope. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone and I certainly commend Peterson on her writing.


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