Rating: 4.25 stars
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John Andrews life was all planned out, had been since he was young and entered the pool for the first time. His life revolved around his diving. John was tutored at home and on the road, his social circle extended out only as far as his teammates and diving competitors. Even the most normal rites of growing up passed him by: no dances, no television watching or movie going, nothing but diving and diving competition. Even after winning two gold Olympic medals, that didn’t change. John was on target to repeat or perhaps exceed his goals at the next Olympics until a accident during training changed his life forever. Now he copes with brain damage, blurry sight, vertigo, and life with a cane as a college freshman, on his own for the first time in his life. But the place inside of him that used to be filled by diving is empty and John doesn’t know how to fill it.
One accident six months ago changed Mason’s life forever. One deer in the middle of the road, one car crash later, and everything he loved and thought he would have forever was gone. Now its Jim Beam and sex that Mason uses to fill the emptiness inside of him, crawling into bed drunk with any number of nameless guys to the consternation and disgust of his roommates and friends. He needs to concentrate on his school work and a project but it seems impossible.
Two men, damaged by life’s accidents. When John turns up at the wrong house for a party, they meet and while their first encounter isn’t promising, John and Mason are drawn together even as they hide secrets from each other. John can see auras around people’s heads and he sees two over Mason’s. And Mason? He is seeing and hearing his dead lover. Can both men over come multiple obstacles, including one not of this earth, to find the love both need and deserve? Life is never easy, but this is ridiculous.
I love K.A. Mitchell. She is a “go to” author for me and this book demonstrates why I grab up every book she writes. The characters are unusual to say the least. John Andrews stands out because he is different on so many levels. First of all, he is that driven individual who has been pursuing a specific goal since childhood and succeeding at it. Young athletes are in a category all their own. They deprive themselves of a normal childhood, delaying or denying all together many hallmarks of growing up in order to pursue their dream, whether it be that of an Olympic high diver or other sport. They create a tunnel of efforts, so focused and driven that they seem almost innocent and guileless outside of their sport. Take that goal, that lifestyle away and you have a person adrift in their own life, no longer tethered by long-term goals. We see that happen to so many athletes once the Games are over.
Mitchell takes it one further. John has had an accident that makes him unable to compete. From a finely toned athlete, he now copes with a brain damaged during a two-story fall. He has vertigo, blurred vision, and has a condition called Synesthesia, a neurological condition where “one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” Colors can be associated with sounds or words, or music is combined with sounds or specific sights, etc. Mitchell’s vivid descriptions give us a intimate look at how it must feel when even a short walk turns into an overwhelming cavalcade of colors and sights. John has to deal with the loss of his life’s goal, his new disability, life as a college student, and all the while he feels empty inside because that one feeling of being “airborne,” floating in space as he dives is forever gone. Mitchell makes us feel that loss as acutely as John does. And then she brings it crashing up against an equally deep cavern of loss and pain that is Mason’s.
Most of us have not lived John’s life but I would bet that we all know someone like Mason or lived through a similar trauma. Mason is easily the most identifiable and recognizable of the two men. We can connect with Mason who is drowning in the loss of the man he thought he would marry and spend the rest of his life with. Booze and sex are the fillers of choice for Mason, and we get that. His friends (wonderful characters in their own right) feel helpless to stop the downward spiral, some have given up all together as Mason lashes out at them in his pain. This is all very authentic in the emotions radiating off the characters and the pages of this story.
But then Mitchell takes it an additional step further, journeying into the paranormal. John’s condition lets him see people auras; he knows what they are feeling by looking at the pulsating colors above their heads. And Mason’s dead lover hovers over all the proceedings, alternately angry and amused by being “stuck” to Mason. I have to admit I wish that this element has been left out of the story. It was terrific with just the obstacles they were already facing but then you add ghosts and “auras” and we start tipping over the edge. It is too much for this story to handle. There is just too much to do justice to all the elements involved. Then at the very end, one final piece is added. Mitchell throws in BDSM at the last minute into a relationship that had not previously explored this type of sexuality. It just seems very awkward and out of place. I could see where she was going with it, and that made sense but it really needed to be introduced much earlier in the book and in their relationship. But as it was I just thought it was a tad strange for them to take it to that level at that time.
So those were my quibbles with this story. Too many ingredients to give this a 5-star rating. It was almost there too. Do I recommend this book? Absolutely, these are wonderful characters and their stories are compelling. I wish Mitchell would bring out another book in this series because I like where it is going. Life is never easy, this book reminds of us of that fact. But there are solutions and answers for everyone, and Life, Over Easy reminds us of that too. Pick it up and let me know what you think.
Cover by Natalie Winters, interesting but not as interesting as the story within.
P.S. Samhain has donated a copy of Life, Over Easy to our Jock Week giveaway so be sure to stop by and enter!