Monday, March 15, 2021

Review: Before I Saw You


About the Book:

Alice Gunnersley and Alfie Mack sleep just a few feet apart from one another. They talk for hours every day. And they’ve never seen each other face-to-face.

After being in terrible accidents, the two now share the same ward as long-term residents of St. Francis’s Hospital. Although they don’t get off to the best start, the close quarters (and Alfie’s persistence to befriend everyone he meets) brings them closer together. Pretty soon no one can make Alice laugh as hard as Alfie does, and Alfie feels like he’s finally found a true confidante in Alice. Between their late night talks and inside jokes, something more than friendship begins to slowly blossom between them.

But as their conditions improve and the end of their stay draws closer, Alfie and Alice are forced to decide whether it’s worth continuing a relationship with someone who’s seen all of the worst parts of you, but never seen your actual face.

A tender novel of healing and hope, Before I Saw You reminds us that connections can be found even in the most unexpected of places—and that love is almost always blind.

My Comments:

In the acknowledgements section, the author, Emily Houghton, thanked some medical consultants and then said that she took some literary license with the information they gave her, for the sake of the story.  While I loved the story, and am by no means a medical expert, I found some of the details to be wrong enough (or different enough from my experience) to be distracting.  However, I have to admit that I can't come up with a quick different way to accomplish the story.

Alfie and Alice are both long-term patients on a rehabilitation ward in a London Hospital.  They share a room with at least two other people (I never quite figured out if there were other people there other than the cast or if it was just the four of them). Alfie was in a car accident that killed his two best friends, and which cost him a leg.  Alice was caught in a fire in her office building and sustained burns over 40% of her body, including half of her face.  When Alice is moved to the rehab ward, it is noted that she did not speak the whole time she was in ICU.  Alfie is the class clown.  Their beds are next to each other, separated by curtains.  Alice refuses to let anyone inside her curtain and when she is taken weekly to PT down the hall, all the other patients in the ward are required to be in their beds with the curtains closed so they don't see her (her request).  

Alfie takes on the challenge of getting her to speak, but what causes her to do so is reaching out to him when he is having flashback dreams.  Nevertheless, she remains hidden behind those curtains all day every day.  Did she have a bedside commode in there or was she using a bedpan for weeks on end?  Her bed is close enough to Alfies that they can hold hands through the curtain, but there is enough room within the curtain for her to walk back and forth?  And the nurses let her just lie there for weeks on end?  PT once a week on a rehab floor?  

As I said, the medical details didn't work, but I loved Alfie and Alice.  Alfie was a teacher who always took a special interest in the kids who had problems.  On the ward, he used his humor to encourage his fellow patients, including Alice, and to hide his own pain.  Alice has spent her adult life building walls between herself and others so that they can't hurt her, will she let Alfie in?  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B. 

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