The Reason Is You by Sharla Lovelace
Berkley Publishing Group/2012
Reviewer: Sheri de Grom
Sharla Lovelace’s debut novel, The Reason Is You, is one of the most delightful reads I’ve encountered this year. The first sentence carried me into the story. I wanted to savor it. The book started like wildfire on a dry prairie with its first three words, “Starting over sucks.”
I’d never read an opening sentence that took me back several years to a time when I’d faced major changes in my own life. Instantly, I was sympathetic to Dani and the plight she found herself in.
Ms Lovelace brought me the emotional hearts of her characters and worked them into The Reason Is You with plot twists, unusual events, and unpredictable causes and effects. I became emotionally invested from that marvelous first sentence.
Dani left her tiny Texas hometown the minute she graduated high school. The only people she cared about that she left behind were her Dad and Miss Olivia Chance. Miss Olivia made the cut because she doesn’t think Dani’s strange because she can talk with ghosts.
Dani made good professional choices the twenty years she lived in Dallas but her personal choices were less than stellar. For years she got away with telling her daughter she bought her at the store.
Her father knows his daughter is hurting and wishes he could do more for her. He’d raised Dani alone since his wife died in childbirth.
We also meet Alex, the ghost. Alex has been watching out for Dani since she was 16. Ms Lovelace paints Alex so real, I’m sure I see and hear him myself. Dani sees and talks with Alex and now discovers her daughter, Riley can do the same.
I tell myself, I don’t read books with ghosts in them, but I was hooked by Ms Lovelace’s voice. I couldn’t put The Reason Is You down.
Dani’s daughter is wise beyond her 16 years. Riley qualifies for the memorability factor although she’s a secondary character to Dani. She’s a mouthy teen while holding on to an enduring innocent quality. Mother and daughter have their disagreements but are also each others best supporters when needed most.
Dani and her father are having a conversation about Riley ‘having the gift’. . . . Pg11[“I don’t want her to live this life,” I said as I bit my lip and lowered my voice. “I didn’t come back to have to worry about her, too.”
“Keeping it from her doesn’t protect her, Dani, it makes her have to struggle like you did.”]
Dani’s father continues to encourage her throughout the book. He’s a likeable character and wants what’s best for his only child.
. . .Pg27[“Dani, I know coming back here wasn’t in your life plan. And this job is ridiculously beneath you.” He rested his arms back on the table. “But, honey, this is temporary. You’ll get your feet back under you. Life’s not perfect.”]
The Bait-N-Feed store employs two fishing guides and Dani is the substitute guide. She’s terrified of the open water. Jimmy, one of the guides, takes Dani on a tour of the section he likes to fish with people on the river.
Dani learns about her mother from Jimmy—the mother her father never talks about. Jimmy tells Dani that her mother’s infectious laugh was much like Riley’s. And, much like Riley, Dani’s mother didn’t let what other people think bother her.
Riley’s convinced that nothing good could possibly happen to her in this dusty tiny town she’s landed in—that is until she meets Grady. Grady is Miss Olivia’s nephew who’s spending the summer with her.
. . .Pg75[They laughed and were instant friends. I watched her in awe. Even in the presence of a guy that turned her insides to goo, she was savvy and witty and sharp. I envied her that. I would have been a babbling idiot.
“Y’all want some lemonade?” Miss Olivia asked.
I looked at Riley and chuckled to myself. At that point, she would have drank motor oil hanging upside down from a tree if he asked her to.]. ..
The dialogue is genuine. Dani’s former high school classmates do all they can to hurl hurtful comments her way, but she, along with her new boss, have winsome lines to throw back. The classmates are clearly living in the past and Dani has moved on. She’s become an independent woman surviving in today’s world.
The introspection by Dani flows smoothly throughout the dialogue scenes. A perfect example is the first few pages of Chapter 7. The passages are rich with Dani’s feelings and the scene comes alive. Dani’s talking to herself and it’s a terrific read. It’s masterful for the reader. We learn so much about Dani, the woman, and it’s not an information dump.
Dani hasn’t had a relationship with a man in a very long time. At a close look, maybe never. Riley’s father wasn’t such a good choice and, well, Alex is a ghost.
Then, we meet Jason, Dani’s boss. On the first meeting, we don’t know he’s Dani’s boss and neither does she. It’s fair to say Jason comes with as much emotional baggage as Dani and he often seems beyond repair—but, then, so does she.
Alex has never shared much of his past life with her. He’s always been the one to protect her. After all, he knew everything about her. He could show up whenever he wanted. Often the spontaneous times weren’t ideal for Dani’s comfort.
. . .Pg125[“You know everything about me, Alex. My weaknesses, my secrets, everything. You know down to the second my daughter was born and what I had for dinner that night. I care about you. I just want to know you like that.”
His jaw twitched and he looked away.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.” I continued. “I’m sorry I went too far.”
He met my eyes instantly, with an intensity that made my toes tingle.]
The growth arcs for Dani, Riley, Jason, and even Alex the ghost are complex and complete by the close of the novel.
What I liked most as a reader of The Reason Is You was the human condition of the characters. They’re real people that live and breathe and act in believable ways. They’re worth caring about. Each character Ms Lovelace presents is capable of surprising me. Each has unexpected fits of anger plus uplifting humor and aren’t above making snide comments.
I was delighted to find The Reason Is You by Sharla Lovelace face-out in the general fiction area of my favorite large book store. In my opinion, this wonderful read is not a romance novel, although it’s stamped as such on the back. For me, it qualifies from page one to the end as women’s fiction at its best. Sharla Lovelace is a debut author but I won’t hesitate to pick up her next novel, Before And Ever Since, when it’s released November 6, 2012.
Don’t miss out on The Reason is You by Sharla Lovelace. It’s fun and thought provoking at the same time. I recommend the novel without reservation.