Full disclosure: I received a free copy of Then and Always from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Rachel Wiltshire used to have a pretty good life. She had a great group of friends, she was headed to her dream school to study journalism, and she was dating the guy that everybody wanted to be with. Then, one fateful night, a car crashed through a window of the restaurant she and her friends were eating in and changed everything.
Fast forward five years, and Rachel is still recovering from the injuries sustained from the devastating accident. Her best friend is dead, she broke things off with her boyfriend, and her dad is dying of cancer. With the stress of her injuries, her hospitalizations, and the resultant side effects, she was forced to abandon her dreams of going to university. She lost contact with nearly all of her former friends, took a job as a secretary at an engineering company, and lives alone in a dreary flat over a laundromat. Or does she?
As Rachel heads back home to attend her friend’s wedding, she finds that her symptoms are becoming increasingly worse. She decides to ignore them for the time being and make an appointment with her doctor once the weekend’s festivities are over, but soon she can’t overlook the searing pain from the headaches. Thinking that a walk might clear her head and the fresh air might help her headache, she takes a stroll through the cemetery to visit her friend Jimmy’s grave. Soon after, she begins losing her vision and collapses on the sidewalk. When she wakes up in the hospital, everything is wrong. She’s engaged to Matt, her high school boyfriend, who she hasn’t seen in five years. Her dad is perfectly healthy. She has none of the side effects or scars that resulted from the car crash. She has her dream job of writing for a magazine. And most shockingly, Jimmy is standing at the foot of her bed as if nothing has happened.
Rachel must piece together what’s true and what’s an illusion. Has she sustained brain damage from a head injury? Does she have amnesia? Has she developed schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder? Has she traveled to some parallel universe where everything worked out perfectly? And, if so, why does she want so desperately to go back to the way things should be, even if how things should be is worse than how they are?
Then and Always surprised me. I read a few pages here and there over a few days, but then really set aside a few hours to see how everything would unravel. I could not put this book down. I was rooting for Rachel on every page, waiting for her to find out what really happened and knowing that she wasn’t crazy. I wanted to file a formal complaint against those doctors who dealt with her confusion by sedating her! The completely unexpected ending broke my heart while simultaneously giving me hope that Rachel would end up happy.
Highly recommended for anyone looking for an unconventional love story.
Final rating: ★★★★☆
[see my original review here]