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Believe by Shelly Hickman


by Shelly Hickman

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Every now and then an author will contact me and ask me to review his or her book. I’m always a little reluctant to do so because that personal interaction makes it…well, personal! It’s harder to be objective when you’ve spoken with someone behind the book before reviewing it and it’s much harder to say what you really think because you know that the author is looking forward to hearing what you have to say and that they chose you to do this. I’m going to be as honest as possible in this review, knowing that I have some good things and some bad things to say about this book and hopefully they will help you, the reader, decide whether or not this is a book for you. That’s always the goal of my book reviews, but it’s important to me that my readers know that I got a free book from the author (I always disclose freebies) but when the author asks a blogger personally, sometimes it can make it harder to say things, both good and bad because you are inclined to exaggerate the good and be quiet on the bad. I’m doing neither here.

Believe by Shelly Hickman is a book about grief and loss and the ability to forgive others for the wrongs they’ve done and the ability to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. Rachel was a single mother who lost her daughter Sarah to cancer. When Cooper, a former flame, suddenly comes back into her life she is stunned to discover that his son has cancer and that feelings she thought were long gone about Cooper have resurfaced. Rachel begins to experience events that can only be described as supernatural and she begins to wonder if Sarah is still with her. As Rachel explores her feelings about her loss and struggles with remaining aloof with Cooper, events begin to fall together as the story of Rachel and Cooper and, ultimately, Sarah make both Rachel and Cooper look at the people they were and who they have become.

While reading this book, the first thing I realized was that the writing was stilted, but detailed. It was Hemingway-esque (an author I’ve never enjoyed) in that it focused on small details that made up surroundings such as what song was playing on the radio. I’ve always preferred more polished writing, but this is a more creative form of writing and it reminded me of some of the work that we wrote in my undergraduate creative writing class. This is not to say Hickman’s writing isn’t good. What it says is that the writing style is not my preferred style. I do not need the entire picture drawn for me, which is why I hate Hemingway. I dislike being endlessly deluged by the small details of what a knob of a door looks like or what the fuzz on a sweater looks like. However, there are plenty of readers that flock to this kind of writing. Just not me. And that’s ok. The book is dialogue heavy and I felt like it was written more for a play than for a book. It was very statement/fact oriented and I felt like the characters spent the novel proclaiming things rather than having any sense of self-awareness or dynamic changing. Overall, I would have liked to have seen a more impactful use of dialogue and a better use of the supporting work to help the dialogue form the story.

However, the book excels in a lot of ways. This book isn’t for me because I’m not someone who is in the midst of losing someone or who has recently lost someone. This book is catered for that person. The raw dialogue and the realistic and verbose use of terms to describe the cancer-related medical supplies and course of treatment would likely make someone who had recently lost someone to a disease, especially cancer, feel supported and understood. For the rest of us, there just isn’t enough insight to help us get to the point of understanding or caring about these characters beyond a stranger empathy we would experience when reading the story in a newspaper.

In many ways, I noticed that this book seems like a walk-through of the different stages of cancer for someone whose child is going through it as well as a noticeable journey into the lapse of faith a Christian parent might have when facing a child who has a terminal illness. The realistic thoughts and comments of Rachel are appealing in this way. One thing I like about creative writing was the ability to open people up to new things. For all the ways that someone has just hit the end of their rope terminal illness, trips to the hospital, pain and hurt and needs someone to speak for them, Rachel may just be that person.

In other words, the book may be a balm for people who are struggling through dealing with a loved one with cancer or have lost a loved one to cancer. The rest of us might just not get it and wonder why things are the way they are. This book is for the former.

The book loses chances to explain things more to readers as well as to offer Rachel and Cooper a chance to give us more insight into them at the end of the novel. Things seem very cut and dry in a very complicated situation and it may be the only part of the book that felt unrealistic to me. Overall, not a bad book, but not one for someone who is looking for a light read or who has never been through this kind of struggle. ( )
  blueshelled | Dec 4, 2011 |
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