When tragedy struck the campus of Hamden University, it left behind unspeakable grief and a quiet hero. John has had to deal with the notoriety of being the man who stopped a gunman and saved lives. He lives on the edge of a precipice where the memories of that fateful day still cause nightmares and linger like a shadow in the background of his life.
When Isaac, who is running from a few demons of his own, arrives to fill in for the loss of a faculty member who was killed that day, he never expects to meet the man who can finally drag him fully from the closet where he has lived for so long. Sparks light between John and Isaac, but they must hide their attraction due to a non-fraternization policy that could get them both fired. But despite that hanging over their heads, they plunge into a relationship that sweeps them onto a path that will crack open the lid they have placed on pasts that have left open wounds behind for both men.
Quite honestly, I’m not really sure how to begin this review. I will say that one should heed the warnings on this book—there is a suicide attempt, PTSD and panic attacks, and so much more. If you have any concerns with those, you may want to reconsider approaching this book lightly and perhaps be prepared to take breaks from it as you read.
We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer gutted me in all the right ways. Like a scary, yet thrilling, roller coaster ride, this novel plumbed the depths of my emotions from rage, to fear, to a sense of deep sadness. Yet despite all that, it was an incredibly satisfying romance—one that was chock-full of mistakes, pain, joy, and hope. I loved that the author chose not to provide a simple fix for the tragedy John and Isaac had faced, both separately in their lives and together in their healing. Instead, this story was steeped in realism and that meant a happy ever after that would be marked by trial and error, by small steps and constant reassurances. Love may not fix the demons that haunt John, but it will provide a safe place for him and Isaac to be when the past becomes too much–too real.
I think the real strength in this book lies in the way in which the author chose to allow her characters to keep their pain as part of their future together. Instead of putting a pretty bandage on the memories that haunted both Isaac and John for different reasons and over different tragedies, Bauer opted to allow the flaws to remain, but provide a way to coping with them that helped both men survive and, ultimately, thrive. Together they would get stronger—together they would love each other fiercely and completely.
Tragedy such as is discussed and relived in We Still Live is not an easy topic to write about and still leave the reader wanting more. For me, that’s exactly what this author accomplished. A novel that lays bare the path survivors must walk after unspeakable loss, but still resonates with hope and love is a winning combination for me and one that I can highly recommend to others. And so I do—recommend this book to you. It is not an easy read, but it is a brilliant and beautiful one despite the subject matter and despite the raw emotional pain it reveals. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, I can guarantee that you will not soon forget the writing mastery of author Sara Dobie Bauer and her latest release, We Still Live.