Imagine you wake up to find yourself in a hospital room with the memories of 25 years of your life just missing, gone, kaput. In your mind you are a college student at the beginning of your life ready to pursue your dreams and make a difference. You prefer diet Coke to coffee and want your parents to come to the hospital to see you, not this 50 year old stranger who keeps holding your hand telling you he is your husband. And let’s just say that the shock of seeing your reflection in the mirror is a bit jarring. This is the predicament of Noelle Hueston, the main character in The Shadow of Your Smile by Susan May Warren. Only Noelle isn’t a college student, she is a married woman with children and a husband and some tough memories that she cannot recall.
The struggling marriage of Noelle and her husband Eli is simply forgotten by Noelle after suffering an accident where her head is hit incredibly hard causing her to lose all memories from the last 25 years. So while she is struggling to remember her past and the people closest to her, she also discovers that things have not turned out for her as she thought they would. She was an aspiring artist that all but gave up her dreams for others and she feels a bit disappointed to see what her 40-something self did with her life in comparison to what her 20-something self thought she would be doing. What a fascinating perspective for her to see. She’s not too happy with her waist size either. (But then again, who is?) Her husband Eli seeks to have a brand new start with this new wife who doesn’t remember all the heartache of their past and wants to build forward from there. They both learn though that it’s impossible to divorce our past from our present, it’s what grows us and something we need to make peace with in order to move forward. It cannot be ignored. There are some other family dynamic stuff that comes into play with the sons that shows some pretty realistic moments, I believe- people placing blame, the importance of honesty and forgiveness. Very well done here.
I thought the pacing of the novel was good, enjoyed the character development and storyline. I actually thought the ending was good, realistic, although I might say that part felt a little rushed. Overall, I enjoyed what this novel explored, the whole idea of are you happy where you are, is it what you imagined and if not, what can you do to change it? I think we all have that question in our mind to a certain extent. Is my life really what I pictured it would be? My answer is no, it’s not, but I think this alternate route, personally, is better than what I had planned.
I was graciously provided a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.