1985. The death of Eleanor's twin sister tears her family apart. Her father blames her mother for the accident. When Eleanor's mother looks at her, she sees only the daughter she lost. Their wounded family crumbles under the weight of their shared grief.
1993. Eleanor is fourteen years old when it happens for the first time... when she walks through an ordinary door at school and finds herself in another world. It happens again and again, but it's only a curiosity until that day at the cliffs. The day when Eleanor dives... and something rips her out of time itself.
And on the other side, someone is waiting for her.
When I first saw Eleanor on Blogging for Books over a year ago, I was dying to read it. As you can guess with this late review, Eleanor ended up on my extended TBR list while the first copy I requested to review was cancelled (Blogging for Books offered the book months in advance before they received copies to disburse, so in order to review other books in that time, they had to cancel my order), so they cancelled my request, put me on a waiting list, then subsequently forgot to send a copy when they finally arrived. Several emails, many months, and quite a few book requests later, my copy was on its way.
And it got lost in the mail.
Basically, it took an entire year to get my hands on this book and this is my excuse for just now reading and reviewing Jason Gurley's not-so-new-release, Eleanor.
*As a side note, the cover photo I chose to use in this post is the UK cover version and is not the cover I have on my copy. It's just too gorgeous a cover not to use.*
There are so few fictional characters I truly connect with, only a small handful have arrived just when I needed them and stuck with me through the years, growing and learning together as we pass through similar phases and face what our lives have become. Marie Brennan's Isabella Camherst in her Lady Trent series is one of the few. Her sudden loss of the husband she depended on, her isolation from society for her ideals and ambition, and then suddenly discovering she would be facing motherhood alone-it was exactly the place I was in my life, and her thoughts and struggles to connect with her son and hope she wasn't a complete failure at being a mother reflected my own troubles and worries so perfectly.
I have a deep appreciation for Marie Brennan and her honesty with discussing her characters lack of connection and bluntness toward motherhood. (The final book of this series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings releases this month btw)
I've spent years reading and reviewing books and hadn't found anything close to the closeness I've felt with Isabella, until I read Eleanor.
Eleanor, our main character, shares her name with her grandmother on her mother's side. It was her grandmother who first touched me in this book. Her grandmother could have been a champion. She could have followed her dreams all the way to the top and had everything she ever wanted. But she fell in love. And then came Agnes.
Her story is heartbreaking and all too familiar to me and I couldn't have understood better what she was feeling. You love your little one, but that dream of the life you could have had if they hadn't come so soon never fades, it never stops haunting you, and when you think you finally have this motherhood thing under control, you start to think you can have both. That you can go back and reach those goals you spent your life trying to achieve.
The emotional struggles of Eleanor are so real, so true to the struggles I've faced. Jason did an absolutely outstanding job at revealing the depth of depression and hopelessness someone with a mental illness faces every day and what can happen when life throws a curveball into the false contentment you'd settled into. Emotions amplify, hopelessness overtakes you, you need to find the quickest way out.
Then there's Agnes. Struggling with the loss of her mother and being raised by a father who's entire life remained about Eleanor. Agnes's childhood was ruined by the memory of her absent mother, and has made her own attempt at motherhood impossible. She struggles with the idea that she can never be good enough to raise young girls. She never had a mother, how could she ever be one to them? She resents them for having a mother when she didn't, even though she herself believes she's a terrible mother figure, and then the loss of one of her girls sends her to that place we all fear to go. The pain and the anger and the complete loss of self because a piece of you will never return. Every parent fears losing a child and this is a very terrifying look into what awaits those who can't overcome the pain.
I know half this review doesn't even include our main character, but this is important.
Eleanor is a great piece to understanding loss and mental illness. Seeing my own struggles and fears unfold before me, watching Agnes sink into the darkness and lose her life to pain and anguish, it's what all of us struggle with depression and anxiety and any mental illness fight against every day. It's what we all fear, it's what we all run from.
The inner worlds Jason has created, and when you read the book you'll understand what I'm talking about, are so perfectly imagined. The inner workings of this book unfold into something beautiful and inspiring and though we can't go back and change our pasts, we can still look to the future.
Eleanor is so well done and so well laid out. It's a beautifully heartbreaking read. I am so thankful to authors like Jason that don't hold back and show the real struggles of mental illness.