Lovely, Dark and Deep
by Amy McNamara
October 16, 2012
Simon and Schuster, BYR
Source: Loaned to me by Asheley (Thank you, chica!:)
A resonant debut novel about retreating from the world after losing everything—and the connections that force you to rejoin it.
Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.
Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.(Goodreads Summary.)
My Take On It
From the moment I read the title, I knew that I wanted to check out Lovely, Dark, and Deep. You see, I am a big fan of poet Robert Frost, who wrote the poem Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening, where McNamara's book gets it's title.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
(Any excuse to add a poem to my posts...:)
I love that poem because of the somber, maybe even dark and ominous, tone. It is a wonderful fit with McNamara's debut work, which chronicles the depression of eighteen year old Wren Wells. Lovely, Dark and Deep is a quiet book, and Wren's story is definitely a somber one. But what I love most about this book is how introspective it is. Told in first person POV, the reader really gets deep inside Wren's head as she struggles to recover mentally from a car accident that took her boyfriend's life.
Wren is floundering. She's has no interest in college. No interest in her art (she's a talented photographer). No interest in her old friends. And no interest in her life at present. After healing from the physical trauma of the accident, she persuaded her mother to let her leave New York and move in with her artist father in Maine until she can get back on her feet again. But it has been months and not much has changed. Wren wakes up and she jogs or bikes the neighboring roads around her father's property. Then she comes home and sleeps. Then she does it all over again. Wren's mom is rapidly approaching her limit, she's eager for Wren to move on and start college, and Wren's dad, while present, is distant and, like many artists, distracted. Wren is avoiding her mom's calls as much as she can and staying out of her father's sight (which is not that difficult) as well.
Everything changes when she meets fellow townie Cal Owens in a most unlikely way. Turns out Cal is the son of her dad's architect and has a few problems of his own that he is trying to work through too. Both Wren and Cal are battling their own demons and you have to wonder if the two of them meeting and trying to develop a relationship is the smartest choice. It turns out it is.
Lovely, Dark and Deep does not sport a huge cast, and I liked that about this book. The handful of characters we do meet are well written. But it is Wren and Cal who are the primary voices in this book. Wren is broken, fragile and on edge. And the way McNamara wrote her reflects this. Wren's thoughts and dialogue are choppy and brief. It was very easy to sympathize with all that Wren has lost, not just a boyfriend but in a way, her old self. And it is easy to get frustrated with her moping. For every positive step Wren makes towards recovery, she often takes two large steps back. I never gave up on her, but there were many, many times I wished she would let some of the people who were trying help her. But ultimately, I felt that when the time and circumstances were right, Wren would progress.
Cal is at a different place in his life. I don't want to spoil and tell you why Call is struggling, but it's a BIG thing. When Cal meets Wren he sees something in her. And though she pretty much rebuffs him in every way, his interest remains constant, and slowly they forge a tentative bond. I REALLY liked Cal. Not only is he kind of swoony, he is a genuinely GOOD person. And I think that McNamara's decision to write a love interest for Wren that also had problems was brilliant. Cal could easily have been written as someone who solved Wren's problems for her. And I'm not saying that they don't help each other through their tough times, they definitely do. But Wren must take the full responsibility for her problems and SAVE HERSELF. I will say that I did worry a lot about Cal's character pretty much throughout the course of this book. McNamara had me biting my nails a good deal while reading.
There are some fabulous secondary characters in this story. Maybe a little more background is necessary at this point. Wren's dad is a famous artist who hosts an artist internship, a fellowship actually, to a student from RISD (Rhode Island School of Design, one of the country's TOP art schools) each semester. When Wren comes to live with her dad, the fellowship winner he is hosting is a girl named Mary. Mary lives in town, but comes to Wren and her dad's house every day to work alongside him in his studio. Mary was a great character. She is the exact opposite of Wren in almost every way. Wren is closed up, moody, and dark. Mary is outgoing, friendly, and happy. It becomes clear that Mary has sort of been enlisted in helping watch over Wren, but instead of resenting Wren for this, Mary chalks it up as part of her fellowship experience and accepts the situation gracefully. I really liked Mary. She was quirky, good natured and a ray of sunshine in Wren's dark little world.
Another secondary character that I fell for was Wren's dad. He's not so much in the beginning. But, blame it on my art background, I really came to love him. Is he the perfect dad? No. Does he show his daughter unlimited amounts of attention? No. But he is there for her at a time when she needs it, and in a way that she needs it. Unobtrusive and unquestioning, Wren's dad doesn't demand things from her. He's content to let her heal at her own pace. And I have to say that I absolutely love that he is an artist. For me, there will always be something so appealing about the creative, distracted, self centered, sometimes tortured, soul of an artist.
In fact, I LOVED how art and poetry played a role in this book. It tied in so well with the setting of Maine deep in the heart of winter. The descriptions of the cold, snowy forests are SO beautiful and almost exotic and romantic to a Florida girl like me. Almost. I have family in western Pennsylvania and I can assure you that being stuck outside on a bitter cold winter's day, with your toes freezing inside your shoes and your ears aching from the wind, is not at all romantic:)
But what I loved most abut Lovely, Dark and Deep, aren't the fabulous characters, the beautiful setting, or even the lovely writing. I think what struck me most was the realistic portrayal of a person battling and eventually overcoming a traumatic and debilitating event in their life. The type of event that is life altering. Am I talking about Wren or am I talking about Cal? Maybe I am speaking about BOTH. And even though there are moments in this book that feel hopeless, there are many, many more that are just the opposite. I think that there is nothing better than reading a story of redemption, and Lovely, Dark and Deep is a beautiful example. I don't know what Amy McNamara is working on next, but I'll be reading it.
Find author Amy McNamara here: website/ goodreads/ twitter/ tumblr
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