Allow me to first remark on my reaction when I read that The Rest Is Illusion was a re-release by Wilde City Press and had been author Eric Arvin’s first novel. In a nutshell, I was absolutely floored. I had just finished a stunningly beautiful story that would linger long after the final page. The characters now resided in my heart and the way in which this novel was brought full circle with both redemption and forgiveness as the end result made this book even more special. Realistic, well planned, packed with twists and turns and even a nod to the coming of age trope, The Rest Is Illusion has it all.
The action takes place in a small, private college named Verona. The handful of students that orbit around our main character, Dashel, range from his closest friend and roommate, Ash, to a fellow frat brother who is deep in the closet, Tony. Along with Sarah, who is one of Dash’s closest friends outside Ash, there is the thoroughly evil and despicable Wilder, son of a politician who specializes in destroying people. Dash is terminally ill and trying to hide it from his friends. He has already felt the humiliation only Wilder can heap on a person and is now worried that Wilder may turn his sights on Tony—an incredibly kind frat brother who also happens to be the college quarterback. Little does Dash know that Wilder has others working on his behalf—those he has already been blackmailing who will assist in bringing Tony to his knees and pushing Dash to the very edge.
I cannot express how intimately I was drawn into this beautiful novel. My heart wept for Dash and Tony as they both fell under the evil that Wilder cast far and wide. Ash and Sarah were those best friends we have all had at one point in our life—unable to stop the bad things happening to their friend yet always there to give comfort and support. The writing was lyrical and full of descriptive passages that spoke of gorgeous scenery that literally became a character in the book as well—the tree that sheltered Ash and allowed him to fly beyond the harsh existence he led under the weight of a deadly illness is one such example.
The chapters flew by, as I could not put this book down, because it was constantly surprising me, taking me down yet another rabbit hole that led to a deeper love for the men and women who inhabited the story. However, it was the ending to this novel that absolutely undid me. The way in which author Eric Arvin allowed for the first steps of healing and forgiveness was impeccably well done. I wanted to hate Wilder—I wanted everyone to despise him and cast him away. Needless to say, that was not exactly how the story ended.
The Rest Is Illusion was beauty in motion—each page giving me deeper awareness of what made these characters tick. I was spellbound by the prose and smitten by each character. I loved this novel from beginning to end.