"Maybe instead of wondering why we're all connected, what's important-the only thing that's important-is to know that we are."
Those words by Colleen Oakley, through her character Mia Graydon, begin this review with a hint of sweet serendipity.
I have recently found it difficult to transition from one book to the next. Finding a compelling hook that pulls me into the lives of a new set of characters has been a struggle. I can offer with confidence that it will not be a problem going forward as long as there are more books to read by Ms. Oakley.
After finishing Taylor Jenkins Reid's latest novel, "Carrie Soto is Back", it was almost like a sign from the universe that I received a notification from BookBub, indicating that said author recommended this book by Colleen Oakley.
In standard fashion, I downloaded the free sample and read the first few chapters. Before I knew it, I had reached the end of the sample and purchased the book with no semblance of doubt, never looking back. I have commented on several occasions in the past that I've been pulled into the lives of each character in a story. Like a strong rip current tugging me beneath the surface, I couldn't resist being submerged in the emotional journeys of Mia, Harrison, Oliver, and the other characters in "You Were There Too", no matter where they led me. To be honest, I felt like I was there too. A bit more of that serendipity, I suppose.
The difference with this story, however, is the way I traveled through it. So many times, while reading other novels, I've had the desire for the storyline to move in a particular direction, and this one was no different. In the past, I've experienced a twinge of disappointment when things didn't go the way I had hoped. And there were times throughout this novel where that happened, at least the part about not going the way I had envisioned. But something magical happened in the way Ms. Oakley composed her prose and dialogue. Momentarily distracted by my preconceived notions, I was quickly tugged back in line with the character's thoughts and actions, as if accompanying a best friend along the path of life. What initially felt amiss suddenly seemed just right. I've always felt that fiction is less about escaping life and more about navigating it. This story and the overarching themes of connection, meaning, dreams, and unexplained signs from the universe replenish my desire to navigate forward with confidence, trust the heart, and enjoy the simple but profound connections we experience as human beings.
A chance encounter with the right someone might just be the biggest dream come true of our lives, if only we trust the process and live fully inside each moment.
Ms. Oakley's prose is poetic. Her dialogue is engaging. And the emotional depth and authenticity she portrays through each of her characters seeps in through the tiniest cracks to help at least one reader understand so much more about himself. In a way that only a gifted author and storyteller can achieve, this novel is both heart-wrenching and heartwarming, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
"Love isn't supposed to hurt. But really, if you're doing it right, love hurts all the time."
If you are looking to hurt and heal and feel and love-all at the same time and in the best way possible-you will wish "you were there too".
Dave’s Rating: ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️
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