Book review: Saving Sara by Nicola Marsh

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After the tragic death of her young daughter and subsequent collapse of her marriage, Sara heads to the small town of Redemption, Connecticut to claim her grandmother’s old home and do some soul-searching. There, she meets Cilla, a longtime resident of the town who’s helping her nephew through a difficult time in his own life.

Cilla’s nephew, Jake, is still reeling from an accident that changed his life forever. To top things off, his sister Rose has enlisted Jake’s help in taking care of her son, Olly, when Jake has no idea how to care for a child. Can Sara and Jake make things work and move on from their past trauma?

Saving Sara was my first book of 2018 and the first book that I chose for my 2018 #killingthetbr challenge. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway in August of 2016, so it more than qualifies as a book I’ve had hanging around unread. Unfortunately, I didn’t really connect with the characters or with the story, so 2018 as a reading year isn’t off to a great start.

The first thing that I want to mention is that this book was written by an Australian writer. There is, of course, nothing wrong with authors setting their books in other countries, but it was glaringly obvious to me that the author was not from the US. I was pulled out of the story several times when one of the characters would use Australian terms like “candy floss” instead of cotton candy or Australian sentence structure like ”he’d got off to” instead of “he went” or “he’d gone,” for example. I went to school for linguistics, so this is something that I notice really easily and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not sure it would bother most people quite as much as it bothered me.

I also felt kind of conflicted because while the writing is fine, I didn’t really feel any connection to the characters. I thought I’d at least connect with the main character since we share the same name, but nope.  I found Sara to be almost a caricature, vacillating between this all-consuming grief that never really gets resolved and a giddy schoolgirl crush on her neighbor.  You’d honestly think Sara was thirteen years old based on how she behaves when she realizes that Jake likes her.  Similarly, Jake vacillates between guilt over the accident and being turned on my literally anything Sara does. Sara cries?  Watch out, Jake’s got an erection. I guess she’s just super attractive when she’s sobbing, I don’t know.

I thought that the whole side story of Cilla and Bryce was a bit odd as well. I’m not used to a romance novel including two separate yet somewhat connected stories. If I’m reading a book about Sara and Jake, I don’t want to suddenly see another, unrelated couple’s story. I couldn’t get behind their relationship, try as I might, because even Cilla didn’t seem to be that into it until the end of the book. There’s guilt and awkwardness and then there’s flat-out incompatibility. Cilla and Bryce did not seem to be looking for the same thing, so I was puzzled when their possibility of romance actually took off into a real romance.

I also don’t think I originally inferred from the very vague blurb that this book is about a woman whose child has died.  I hate books that feature dead children. I love kids. I don’t want them to die or to read about the aftermath of their deaths. I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book had I known that’s what it was about.

My list of problems just keeps growing, but there also seemed to be some continuity and consistency problems? The biggest example is Jake’s drinking. Near the beginning of the book, he mentions that he grew up with an alcoholic father and made a conscious decision not to consume any alcohol, but then goes on to talk about going to bars with his drinking buddies.  I just feel like this book could have used an editor.

My reading year in 2018 isn’t off to the greatest start, but there are still 50 or so weeks left to read something better.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

I received a free advance copy of Saving Sara from the publisher (via Goodreads) in exchange for an honest review.

#killingthetbr: 1 year, 5 months on shelf