Rating: 5 stars
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It’s the little things in life that sometimes mean the most. A warm hand when ours is so cold. A comforting word when our heart is breaking. Or, more simply, someone to stand there beside us, offering us little more than the comfort of their presence while viewing us with eyes of love. Joel had one very special little thing, his daughter Evie. A drunken moment with his best friend Claire while in university and Evie was born. While Joel finished and grappled with the fact that he was indeed gay, Clair took a break to raise their daughter. Joel was a hands-on Dad and with the unique sharing system both parents got time with their little girl.
Joel is dating a young nineteen something named Dan when tragedy strikes. Claire is involved in an accident taking her life and suddenly Joel, fresh out of Uni and a second year teacher, is a single parent. While Dan tries to support and comfort Joel, theirs is an open relationship and it turns out to be the comfort of a stranger at the hospital that reaches in and captures Joel’s heart. Liam, a pediatric nurse, finds Joel right after Claire dies and helps him to his car. It will be a series of fateful meetings that take place later, along with the harsh reality that Joel does not love Dan enough to continue their casual relationship, that would have these two men meet again.
Now Liam is a permanent fixture in Joel’s train wreck of a life and wants to be more than just a casual date. Joel, feeling overwhelmed at the idea of starting a serious relationship, runs as fast as he can away from the loving arms of Liam. When he finally realizes his mistake, Liam is not as receptive as he was before and now Joel worries that he may never have the very thing he wants desperately, Liam’s love.
Jay Northcote gives us a tumultuous story of love and loss with such easy grace. Her small cast of characters is so solidly fleshed out and their emotions pour over the reader, often leaving one a bit teary-eyed and just a little breathless. The sex contained in this novel tells us even more about the people she has written. The way in which Joel’s coupling with Dan is fierce and hard, as if he fears Dan will slip away at any moment, rings with such truth as that very thing happens in the latter chapters of the novel. Northcote cleverly uses the character of little Evie to show the softer side in both Liam and Dan and the deep love that Joel is capable of shines through in every interaction he has with his little girl.
The grieving process the author allows Joel, his sister, Miranda (Claire’s best friend) and even little Evie to experience is done with such realism and gentleness. The author doesn’t shy away from the scene where Joel must explain to his little one that Mommy is gone and I found it to be one of the most heartbreaking and yet loving scenes in the entire book. It takes a great deal of restraint as a writer not to overdo such a scene or go the easy route and make the child an unbearable brat to get across the point that she is grieving. Northcote did none of that. Instead, she allowed the “little things” to show how deeply Claire was missed by everyone. Such moments like Evie crawling into bed with her Daddy in the middle of the night and Miranda looking with envy at the little girl her brother now has while she and her husband are trying so hard to conceive all add up to give the story such a needed sense of realism. I venture to say that is one of the reasons this book had such a lasting impact on me.
This is not a “big” novel. There is no huge surprises or any attempts by bad people to take Evie from single, gay dad, Joel. Instead it is a continuous journey that cries the reader from joy to grief and back again. Little Things by Jay Northcote allows for all the everyday occurrences to jell together into a beautifully lyrical novel that carries the reader sweetly along to its conclusion. At the end, we are so grateful for the journey these two men have taken to find one another and heave a quiet sigh of relief that love was not lost but, rather, fought hard over and won. Little Things is a delightful novel and I highly recommend it to you.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.