Review of ‘What the Heart Remembers Most’ by M. Ullrich
This is a hard book to rate. If it were a movie, it would be a loose mixture of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and ‘Groundhog Day’. Amnesia as an enabler of a second chance in an almost failed long term relationship. It is an ambitious book, hard to write, I imagine, but also sometimes difficult to follow.
Jax Levine and Gretchen Mills were a happily married couple until career ambitions, a baby and frequent rows pushed them apart. Days before filing for divorce, Gretchen suffered an accident that left her with brain damage. The injury erased recent years of her memories leaving her with just the recollection of happier times. Will Gretchen’s transformation give them a second chance at love? Can Jax open her heart again after suffering so much?
I like that Ms. Ullrich deviated from the normal lesfic romance comfort zone to explore difficult issues such as bereavement, long-term relationship challenges, and mental health. The theme of amnesia and second chances has been used before but here there is an added twist which makes it different from other second chance lesbian romance novels. I don’t want to give too much away but let me say that the timeline is essential to this novel, so much so, that most of the chapters’ titles state a precise point in the story chronology. I’m not sure if this was a helpful guide or a distraction. For me, it was the latter but it might be helpful to other readers.
What is certain is that this is an emotional roller coaster, full of angst and drama. I admit it’s not my favourite kind of book but the characters were so lovable and vulnerable that it made it easy to get into. Ms. Ullrich takes her time to develop the story, with small details that seemed apparently unimportant but later gained crucial relevance.
Gretchen’s brain seems to play tricks on her but also on the reader. Because of the nature of the plot, there is an inevitable duplication of scenes that play an important role in the story but also sometimes feel repetitive. For this reason, I felt that even though the execution wasn’t perfect, the novel was engaging and kept me entertained. 4 stars.
ARC provided by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.