Live by Mary Ann Rivers – an epistolary review by Kelly and Kim

So, here’s the deal. When I finish a book that I loved, that managed to snuggle up to my soul in all the best ways, to entertain me and help me believe for another day that there is love (and beauty) in this world, sometimes I have a hard time writing about it.  And I recognize that it’s completely ridiculous that the books that I absolutely loved tend not to get as much love on my blog, because I loved them so much that I just don’t know what to say about them.

Anyway, I was talking to Kim (from Reflections of a Book Addict) about this phenomenon and beating myself up because I read Live, and I loved it, and I had this profound writer’s block about it.  Anyway, it turns out that Kim did, too, so we decided to join forces and battle our writers’ block together.  And we decided to get creative about it.

The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

If there’s an upside to unemployment, Destiny Burnside may have found it. Job searching at her local library in Lakefield, Ohio, gives her plenty of time to ogle the hottest man she has ever laid eyes on: the sexy wood-carver who’s restoring the building. But as the rejection letters pile up, Destiny finds an unexpected shoulder to cry on. With his rich Welsh accent, Hefin Thomas stirs Destiny so completely that, even though he’s leaving soon, she lets herself believe the memory of his scorching kisses will be enough.

Hefin can’t help but notice the slender, confident woman with ginger hair who returns each day, so hopeful and determined. So when the tears start to fall, his silence—penance for a failed marriage—finally cracks. Once he’s touched her, what Hefin wants is to take her back to Wales and hold her forever. But Destiny’s roots run too deep. What they both need is each other—to learn how to live and love again.

Kim: Somehow our reviews of Mary Ann’s books always include us writing a letter to her about her characters or the story or asking her to write ALL THE THINGS.

Kelly: Well, let’s face it. All the things would be better if they were written by Mary Ann. I want her to follow me around my daily life, narrating it and (thereby) making it more interesting.  So when we were trying to figure out how to start our review for Live – what we could say besides the obvious — we decided to just start out with the obvious.

Kim: Dear Mary Ann,

I have to hate you after reading Live. You’ve (once again) raised the standards I’ve set for my literary boyfriends because of how awesome Hefin is.

Love, Kim

Kelly: Dear Mary Ann,

Please write me some fanfiction of your own book. I want Hefin doing laundry; Hefin putting together furniture from IKEA with a teeny, tiny Allen wrench; Hefin reading poetry.

Love, Kelly.

Kim: Dear Mary Ann,

I, too, want you to write fanfiction with Hefin putting together furniture. However, I want you to write me Hefin building me bookcases that he carves his face into. I also wouldn’t mind a fanfiction with him taking care of lots of little redheaded babies.

Love, Kim

Kelly: Dear Mary Ann,

What Kim said.  Also, is there a way to write Hefin into reality? Because I really want to come home after a long day at work and have Hefin wrap a blanket around me and make me a cup of tea.  Anyway, if you could just work on that, I’d be much obliged.

Love, Kelly.

Kim: Dear Mary Ann,

Your male heroes are always great. But you truly broke the mold when you created Hefin. Welsh? Wood-carver?

Kelly:  Caretaker? Goose person?!

Kim: YES. He is truly the best of men. And Kelly and I truly demand that we have more of him. Whether you write us secret fanfiction or publish another story about Hefin and Des, we demand you write ALL THE THINGS ABOUT HEFIN.

Love, Kim

Kelly: and Kelly.

Kim: Dear Mary Ann,

We don’t want you to think that we didn’t like Des. Therefore we would like to thank you for writing a character that doesn’t have all her shit together. A character who puts the care of her family before care of herself. In reality, a character that puts the needs of EVERYONE before the care of herself. She’s good-natured, kind, and selfless. OH. I almost forgot the best part. She’s a ginger.

Love, Kim

Kelly: Dear Mary Ann,

Thank you also for rendering Des’s selfless love so well, for showing how dangerous that kind of love is, for bringing Des to the knife’s edge of sacrificing her own happiness in order to demonstrate not only the unhealthiness of that kind of sacrifice but also the emotional cost of loving more healthily, the cost of self-care.  These are important lessons, particularly in a genre that is forever focusing on sacrificial heroines who give up everything for love (because of magical penis, mostly).

Love, Kelly

Kim: P.S. That lesson taught me much in my own life, so, seriously Mary Ann, thank you for writing this lesson. Realizing that seeing to your own needs isn’t selfish, but necessary, can be difficult. And thank you also for Des’s siblings, who in a way each act as a foil to Des.

Sarah is all dark, selfish, and full of angst, thanks to her injuries. (Her injuries stem from a biking accident.) Her selfishness plays off of Des’s goodness and selflessness. PJ’s aloofness works as a foil for Des’s obsession with taking care of the entire family.

Kelly: Dear Mary Ann,

 Thank you for writing a real, believable family that I both want to be part of and want to run from (you know, like all the good families). Thank you for making Sam appear to be such an asshole, when in reality he just loves too much, too hard, so much that his love shifts a little bit into hate.

Love, Kelly

Kim: Dear Mary Ann,

Thanks for writing a (real) family that shows us even though we may fight, drive each other crazy, etc – we’re never better than when we help each other, listen to each other, and most importantly love each other.

Love, Kim

Kelly: Dear Mary Ann,

Thank you for demonstrating just how difficult it is to uproot your life for someone else.  That cost — all those relationships that you need to find new ways to keep, all those habits that need to change (finding new grocery stores to shop at, finding a new bookstore, finding new people to get coffee with), all the innumerable compromises you make to your life and your self to make it work — is limitless, immeasurable.  That choice is considered with all of the weight it deserves, and your book is the better for it.  Thank you.

Love, Kelly

Kim: P.S. Thank you for writing characters that are fully aware of these costs. And, because of that knowledge, the characters are more worried about how the cost affects their partner’s heart, than their own.

Kim’s Final Thoughts: Kelly and I could honestly write letters for days about this book. There are so many poignant things written, expressed, and felt within its pages. It’s an experience everyone should have, and I’m so glad that Mary Ann came into the writing world to give us these characters, these experiences, and these lessons.

Kelly’s final thoughts: Thank you.  This book felt like a gift to me when I read it, and it’s an extra special gift because I got to share it with Kim.

10 thoughts on “Live by Mary Ann Rivers – an epistolary review by Kelly and Kim

  1. Well. You certainly said all of that much better than I did in my own review! I <3 Hefin. So so so much.

    And I completely agree that Mary Ann should write all the books. Ever.

  2. I loved LIVE as well. And you’ve articulated so much of what I enjoyed about it. I would add that I loved how the novel, in Des’s “conversations” with her deceased mother, who also left family and familiarity behind for love, served as spirit-guide to Des. I also loved Hefin’s Des-hut in the backyard … and how it echoes and honours one of my favourite artists, Andy Goldsworthy. And what I love most of all is that we have Sam’s story to look forward to in LAUGH!

    • Yes! I couldn’t find a way to express the presence of Des’ deceased parents in our epistolary format, so I deleted that bit, but yes! I really loved that piece of the book, because Des, who lost her mother at an early age, finds a relationship with her throughout the course of this book, and her relationship with her father, whom she’s still grieving, is present and real, too.

      I’d never heard of Goldsworthy, but this book (and your review of it) prompted me to watch a bunch of videos on YouTube. It’s such a cool thing, and I loved that Hefin understood without Des having to translate what she was doing with all those sticks.

      I’m really looking forward to Sam’s book. (I dig grumpy dudes.) Sam was such a difficult character in this book — more difficult for me than Sarah was (though Sarah was much more difficult for Kim, I should say) — because Sarah’s issues were like this self-destructive, self-absorbed energy that just had to find an outlet, and I was OK with that. Sam’s tendency to lash out was more problematic for me, but that just means that I’m especially anticipating his book because I want to know why.

      I loved your review of LIVE, btw.

  3. Blush. Thank you. You and Kim have done a very cool thing! It was a lot of fun to re-think this wonderful book all over again. “I dig grumpy dudes” big time! I agree with what you’re saying about Sam and felt the same way about him; he wasn’t just surly, he was real and truly difficult, so unbending and unforgiving. It wasn’t a posture, which is yet another nod to Rivers’ skill with characterization.

    I’m glad Goldsworthy has found another admirer and highly recommend that documentary, Rivers and Tides. It’s meditative and profound work he’s doing.

  4. Pingback: Kim’s Guest Review of Live (Burnside #1) by Mary Ann Rivers | Reflections of a Book Addict

  5. Pingback: Kim and Kelly’s Dueling Review of Laugh (Burnside #2) by Mary Ann Rivers | Reflections of a Book Addict

  6. Pingback: Kim and I did a dueling review of Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers | Reading with Analysis

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