Funny the people you forgot until you remembered. Like bystanders you never meant to hurt who got caught in the crossfire anyway.
I want to preface by saying that this is the book that made me fall in love with the fabulousness that is Mary Calmes. I have since fallen in love with every single book that she’s ever written, but this short novella was the beginning for me and remains, to this day, one of the best shorts I’ve ever read.
Thirteen years ago, Eli left home with his mother for a summer vacation in New York. He did not expect to never see his father and brothers again. Now, living as Jacob Somerville, he’s returned home to face his demons… or try. In returning home, Jake is running from his past and running from his future with Craig, the one man he’s ever allowed himself to open up to and to love. When facing his family brings him face to face with fears and demons he thought he left behind, Jake turns to the one person he thought he could live without and finds that sometimes it’s worth sticking around in exchange for running.
This story is all about Eli/Jake—his heartbreak, his sacrifice, his loss, and his love. He is one of my all-time favorite characters. He will tear your heart out and make you love it. Calmes can write a broken, lovable character like none I’ve ever seen. Jake is so tortured. Certain he can’t be loved, isn’t worthy of it. And then there’s Craig, who is maybe the most perfect of perfect guys (other than Sam, because we all know how much I love Sam). Craig is Jake’s rock when Jake doesn’t even realize it. Add to the many different dynamics of Jake’s long lost family to the equation and the fun and tears are only beginning.
This story is amazing. From beginning to end. It’s totally not what I expected when I first picked it up. And as I’ve read more of Calmes since, I look back on it and see the deepness and heart in this novella. It’s painful and beautiful at the same time. What Can Be is a story of family and forgiveness. Jake had to forgive himself for what he views as his own downfall. Accepting forgiveness is beyond him. And facing reality and a future with Craig is more than he thinks he can handle. All of these things make this story so incredibly amazing. Add in the emotional trauma of a bipolar, drug-addicted mother, having to grow up and being on his own at such a young age, and suffering sexual abuse, and this story is absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful. I cry every single time I read it.
Like I said, this is one of my all-time favorite holiday story. It’s the perfect holiday short on so many levels–heartwarming, affirming, beautiful, and sweet. This is my go-to Christmas story every year. I highly, highly recommend What Can Be by Mary Calmes.