Warning: I have serious love for this book so there will probably be much gushing throughout.
I loved everything about this book. The story, the characters, the love, the connections, the patch-work family, the redemption, just everything. I connected with the story of a boy stepping in to raise his siblings in the face of dysfunctional parents that spend all their money on their next fix while the kids go hungry. This book so closely resembled my childhood that I devoured it while feeling everything the characters were going through. When you grow up in that type of environment you learn to expect nothing but learn that it just takes one person to show kindness, to make you fight for something different than the shitty hand you were dealt. To make you believe that you are worth it and give you motivation to dream the dreams you could never imagine before; That kindness and love can change everything.
Tommy took over parenting his seven siblings as a teenager to compensate for his absent father and step-mother. He fed them, clothed them, became a role model for them, and loved them fiercely. He’s extremely protective of his kids and that doesn’t change when local cop, Bobby increases his visits to Tommy’s house.
Bobby and Tommy went to school together but might as well live worlds apart. Bobby knows how hard Tommy works and frequently looks the other way when a law is broken or bent to put food on the table or get medicine to the kids. Bobby insinuates himself into Tommy’s life and the kids’ lives slowly but surely. They become friends, and much to Tommy’s dismay, they start depending on Bobby and all the unconditional love and kindness he seemed to supply.
“I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d put every dime on you and those kids.”
Their romantic relationship was slow starting due to the stressful circumstances surrounding Tommy. They had a solid foundation and their relational progression was natural as they navigated the shitstorm that seemed to be Tommy’s life. There was heat and chemistry but it was so much more than sex. Their relationship was full of beauty, fears, learning to trust, insecurities, baggage, and love. So much love.
I adored all of the secondary characters which were so important to this story. The sibling dynamics were beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. They were forced to grow up way before their time and along with the endless love, there was so much self-sacrifice in their interactions and the things they had to do to survive. And Judy. Everyone needs a Judy in their life. Judy is Bobby’s mom and became the thread that sewed their dysfunctional pieces together to create an imperfectly beautiful tapestry.
This story has so much depth. Kudos to the author, I find it amazing that a character can be hated and humanized from one word to the next. The story of Tom and Bobby shows that life isn’t black and white and that sometimes the gray can be as bright and beautiful as a rainbow. It also shows that redemption is possible, forgiveness can be granted, and that sometimes it’s ok to have dreams and just maybe it’s ok to reach for them.
“Tommy understood in one fraction of a heartbeat every love song he’d ever heard, every dream he was afraid to have, every memory of anything good that had ever happened to him. It was all wrapped up in Bobby. He was the music, he was the dream, he was the love, and… he was the hope.”