Friday, December 20, 2013

Our First Love by Anthony Lamarr

The Basics:
Our First Love by Anthony Lamarr
Strebor Books
Published Dec 17, 2013

I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Can brothers who share one life share one love? 

Since the tragic accident that changed their lives forever, brothers Nigel and Caleb have been inseparable—until one woman captures both of their hearts. Thirteen years ago, Nigel and Caleb lost their parents in a terrible accident. Today, Nigel is a thirty-five-year-old college professor, while Caleb, a reclusive twenty-nine-year-old, doesn't know a life beyond the walls of the house they share. Caleb developed an extreme case of agoraphobia—the abnormal fear of public places— and psychogenic amnesia after the accident that killed their parents.

But things are about to change. Unexpectedly, and for the first time, Nigel finds himself falling in love. He tries to keep Karen, his new love interest, a secret, but it doesn't take Caleb long to discover what’s going on. So what does Caleb do when he finds out about Karen? He falls for her, too.

As the brothers’ tight-knit relationship faces increasing pressure and the love triangle intensifies, mysteries surrounding the tragic accident also begin to unravel, bringing the story to a shocking climax. With equal doses of suspense and romance, Our First Love is a bittersweet drama about the pain of loss and the thrill of new love.

Why I picked up this book:

In a very shallow way, I was interested in reading a romance novel written by a man as I normally read romance written by women. I found the setup of the two brothers in this tight-knit relationship, falling for the same woman to be both tragic and entertaining.

My thoughts:

Oh man, I struggled with this one. It was entirely because once I finally sat down to read it, I was afraid it was going to be this horrible, emotional blowout. I fretted over whether or not the book would end in a happy place, and if I'd feel cheated or not.

In the end, I sucked it up and read. And I am so, so glad that I did.

First, I love the way the book is written. Chapters are either from Nigel or Caleb's perspective, and they're dosed with memories and thoughts. The most complex parts involve narration with Caleb inserted into Nigel's day outside of the house. Caleb relies on Nigel's recitation of his daily activities in order to exist beyond the walls of 207 Circle Drive - he pretends to have been there throughout the day, imagining it unfold during their nightly exchange.

Between the secrets of the past, Nigel keeping secrets about the present, Caleb remembering things from his childhood (whether real memories or invented ones for his blog), and then the re-imagining of Nigel's day with Caleb in tow, this book provides fantastic fodder for thinking about the flexibility of memory and the range of narration. It would make an excellent book club selection and I wish I had an active group to sit and discuss it with!

Caleb and Nigel are sympathetic characters, and I found myself rooting for them both even as I wanted to chastise them! Their relationship is easily the most fascinating component of the book, but the way they interact with the world around them, and their own inner lives also entertained and intrigued me. The book revolves around these two characters so heavily that it might have felt (appropriately) claustrophobic or limited if it hadn't been for how skillfully all the different types of narration are interwoven.

Now, this isn't an easy read. It's not a lighthearted contemporary romance, by any stretch, but I think it's definitely rewarding. There's such richness in the narrative layers that Our First Love is well worth reading.

Bottom line:

Pick this up if you enjoy books that stick with you for days after you've finished reading them. Our First Love would make a great book club selection as there's plenty to debate and unpack.

5 stars
For fans of 'meaty' books, contemporary tales, complex narrative styles, good books.

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