Dear Ms. Harper:
I am a sucker for survivor stories. I think it is because one never knows how one will act in really terrible situations but you hope you will be one of those that will bravely pick themselves up and move on. Or maybe one knows that you will be a wallower but it’s still nice to read about the courageous people? Or maybe no one really likes a wallower and thus writers avoid them? Age old questions with no answers.
Anyhew, Ellie Bond lost her husband and her daughter in a terrible car wreck that left Ellie with a broken heart and a head injury. Ellie is high functioning but she has significant memory loss. She cannot recall people’s names or even the name of a particular kind of coffee.
She calls a friend of hers, Charlotte maxwell, who runs a staffing agency providing the wealthy with domestic help from chauffeurs to cooks and nannies. Ellie is a great cook but Charlotte is uncertain. Finally, (after Ellie plays the pity card – she’s not above playing dirty here) Charlotte agrees. Ellie simply has to get away from her town, her memories, her loss.
“Sometimes it felt as if she were inhabiting the body of a stranger, and she could feel her old self staring over her shoulder, noticing the things she couldn’t do any more, raising her eyebrows at the mood swings and the clumsiness.”
Charlotte gets her cousin, Mark Wilder, to agree to take Ellie on as housekeeper/chef. Wilder is a manager of music stars and Charlotte promises Ellie that Mark spends most of his time away from home traveling with his clients, going to award shows, and making deals abroad.
Mark was had a bad penchant of picking up strays, waifs, women who are fragile, and helping them along. But once they were healthy and not needy, they left him. It fits with his chosen vocation as a manager. He finds unknown artists and launches them. In his personal life, he is determined to stay away from the needy ones. Ellie seemed like one of those needy women and he wasn’t going to fall for her no matter how attractive she was.
When Ellie first meets Mark in person, she feels a surge of sexual attraction. He was amazingly handsome and charismatic in person. Thankfully Ellie remembers her doctors telling her that her sex drive could be affected by her brain injury and thus Ellie can chalk up her unwanted physical response to that pesky head injury. “It was just her stupid neurons getting themselves in knots because of the damage they’d suffered. What a relief!”
Of course, it is not her head injury. It’s just a convenient excuse, one that Ellie can use to rationalize away her response.
I didn’t think that Mark’s past relationship with needy women, particularly his ex wife, really fit the analogy that was being drawn. Helena didn’t leave Mark because he wouldn’t cater to her but that he wasn’t rich enough to cater to her in the manner she wanted. That’s less about helping someone on their feet and having them leave you. So I thought that wasn’t a well played out comparison.
But I liked the idea that Mark is the one who is always trying to help the wounded birds along while getting his fingers nipped at when the birds are ready to fly. It certainly appeared that Ellie, the head trauma girl, was a wounded bird. But as Mark and Ellie began spending time with each other, Mark marveled at her strength and resiliency.
(I felt that there could have been a lot more done to draw out Mark’s past negative behavior and shown how he grew as a person from allowing himself to be taken advantage of, determining what it was that he was trying to fill (emotionally that is) and how he changed).
This was a sweet and emotional read that I felt didn’t diminish either the loss nor the second chance at love. B