The Hard Truth About Sunshine
By Sawyer Bennett
Release Day: March 28
New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett has written her most gripping and poignant tale yet. Provocatively heart-breaking, audaciously irreverent and romantically fulfilling, The Hard Truth About Sunshine exposes just how very thin the line is between a full life and an empty existence.
An angry, bitter amputee.
An optimist losing her eyesight.
A dying kid.
A suicidal thief.
Four people with nothing in common but their destination.
Despite having narrowly escaped death’s clutches, Christopher Barlow is grateful for nothing. His capacity to love has been crushed. He hates everyone and everything, completely unable to see past the gray stain of misery that coats his perception of the world. It’s only after he involuntarily joins a band of depressed misfits who are struggling to overcome their own problems, does Christopher start to re-evaluate his lot in life.
What could they possibly learn from one another? How could they possibly help each other to heal? And the question that Christopher asks himself over and over again… can he learn to love again?
He’s about to find out as he embarks upon a cross country trip with a beautiful woman who is going blind, a boy with terminal cancer, and an abuse victim who can’t decide whether she wants to live or die.
They will encounter adventure, thrills, loss and love.
And within their travels they will learn the greatest lesson of all.
The hard truth about sunshine…
Warning: This book deals with some tough issues including suicide and sexual abuse.
Reviewed by Donna ~ 5 stars
***ARC received for an honest review***
“I wouldn’t be killing myself today.”
I’ve read the majority of Sawyer Bennett’s books whether it be legal, hockey or her hot and steamy romances, no matter what book of hers I have read, I have loved it. Sometimes, you just connect with an author’s voice and they could write the phonebook and you would be happy and that is my connection to this author. So much so, I go in blind now. I didn’t know what I would be getting from The Hard Truth About Sunshine, but what I got was definitely not expected and so far from Sawyer Bennett’s norm I had to check that it was in fact a Sawyer Bennett book. Damn, this woman can write and she delivered on every count with this book.
The Hard Truth About Sunshine was incredibly emotional, raw and honest. It covers some extremely hard subjects which were handled with brutal honesty and showed that not all people live surrounded by unicorns and rainbows. Peoples struggles are real and while they may not show it on the outside there can be a squall of anger and depression underneath. People may seem confident, brave and optimistic on the outside, but underneath they are frightened and afraid. Keeping your cards close to your chest, being aggressive and obnoxious may not be the determination of an asshole, but maybe, just maybe that person has been rejected time and time again and it is better not to open up rather than just get knocked back once again.
“Maybe you need to find ways to get more color in your life…”
Life is full of individuals that never have the same story, yet circumstance brings them together for a reason. People with one thing in common can suddenly find that, in fact, they have a lot more in common than they first thought. Four people thrown together in “therapy” who became the best of friends, some get their happy ending, others don’t, but this was all about the journey and what a road trip Sawyer Bennett delivered.
“Each one of us hates our life. It’s a burden to us. It’s unfair. It’s nothing but misery and torment, and we’re pissed we’re the ones who have to suffer it. Maybe not to the same degree, and not for the same reasons, but it’s the absolute tie that binds every one of us.”
Christopher Barlow is one ball of anger and his anger has left him with a choice of therapy or jail. Christopher was a war vet who had been injured when his Humvee went over a land mine. Scarred face, half a hand, a rebuilt arm and half a leg has left him with way more than his physical injuries. Emotionally scarred, deserted by those he needed the most, he was an emotional island, angry at the world and all who walked in her. He needed no-one, the only one he could rely on was himself and even then, that was flimsy at best.
“I bet if you spent as much time seeking positivity as you do reveling in negativity, you’d feel a hell of a lot better about yourself. But since you seem to like being a jackass, and it sort of suits this whole “bitter-wounded-warrior-who-feels-betrayed-by-everyone vibe” you’ve got going on, I’m guessing you don’t have the backbone or the fortitude to be anything more than what you are right now. It’s pathetic really.”
In therapy, Christopher meets Connor, who is seventeen and dying of cancer, Barb who was a victim of sexual abuse and who has tried to take her life many times and Jillian, who lost her sister and is now losing her sight. It is while in therapy that Jillian decides a road trip is in order to aide Connor complete some of the items on his bucket list and by being in such close proximity to one and other, hopefully they could all be there for one and other and hopefully make inroads into making friends. Connor was designated driver and so his road trip with Dead Kid, Goth Chick and Sexy Eyes begins.
“You’re a cup-half-full kind of girl.”
“I’m a cup-half-empty kind of guy…”
“Both of our cups are still missing something.”
“About four ounces each…”
“You put us both together and we’re full…”
Wow, Sawyer Bennett tugged at every single heart string with this book, yes, at times I was bloody depressed reading this, but then the “sunshine” comes and uplifts you in the next sentence. I laughed at times, I cried in others, but I experienced this journey with them and while it was eye opening for them it was also eye opening for me. While this book is predominantly Christopher’s journey and is told solely from his point of view, this was also the journey of Connor, Barb and Jillian. Each one of them intrinsically affected Christopher in some way and turned him from a ball of anger to a life appreciating human being by the end.
“Jillian, you were my bucket list and I didn’t even know it.”
There is romance, a little sex, but this book was all about the characters and how when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Not everyone can be saved, but you can make sure they have the best time of their lives before they go. Sometimes it takes seeing other people’s problems for you to fully understand your own, what is huge to you maybe superficial to others. Not everyone sees what you see in the mirror every day. It just takes that special someone’s to make you realise it. I loved the story that Sawyer Bennett retells at the end of the book detailing her inspiration behind this story. It just goes to show how great stories are born from the most innocuous of situations and how vivid an author’s imagination can be to get the answers they desperately crave.
“I choose to live.
I choose to love.
I choose to forge my path.
Life is my choice.”
Jillian holds my gaze for a moment, her eyes drilling into mine before she gently tugs on the material of my jeans near the shin rod of my prosthetic. “What happened to you?”
She doesn’t look away. Not down at the fire, not down to my legs. She stares right at me. Although my gut is turning slightly at the thought of telling her what she asked, I forge straight ahead. For the first time, I tell someone who is not medical personnel or a shrink my story.
“I was driving a military Humvee and the right front tire ran over a roadside bomb,” I say, and Jillian makes a sound of distress low her in throat as her eyes turn sad. “It completely obliterated my buddy sitting in the passenger seat.”
To my surprise, Jillian scoots over closer to me and lays her head on my shoulder. She pushes her hand in between my ribs and my arm, curling her fingers over my bicep. It’s a show of support. Solidarity. That she’s settled in for the long haul of this story, and she wants to hear it all.
“It didn’t blow my leg off,” I tell her, and I can feel her body jerk slightly in surprise. Her fingers squeeze my bicep. “The fingers yes, the leg no. It just shattered and shredded it badly, but the doctors tried hard to save it.”
“Obviously, they couldn’t,” she whispers the obvious.
“They tried for three months,” I tell her, reaching down to grab my phone laying near my left hip. Jillian lifts her head up, watching as I pull up my pictures. I scroll backward, but it doesn’t take long to find what I’m looking for because I don’t take a lot of photos. I hold the phone out so she can see. “This was taken about a month after my injury.”
Jillian makes a strangled sound as she looks at the photo of me in bed. My eyes are half open because I was bombed out on so many heavy-duty pain medications, and I have a grimace on my face. I vaguely remember this picture being taken, and I think it may have been by my brother, Hank, when he came to visit once during that first month. He came a few more times after that, and then he didn’t.
Jillian’s eyes roam over the photo. My leg is encased in the external fixator with several rods leading from the outside of the cage right into my skin, where it’s drilled through and into the bone to hold the pieces together. The wounds on my leg are all open to the air, red and some of them dripping with puss and lined with blisters. I’ve got IVs in both arms and a PICC line in the right side of my neck to deliver the hordes of antibiotics and pain meds I needed to keep me alive and functioning. I took the maximum dosages they allowed me, preferring to try to be oblivious to what was happening. Yet, the pain was so great it just couldn’t be fully erased.
Jillian turns her head to look at me, and I lay the phone back down. “How long were you like that?”
“Three months. But they couldn’t get ahead of the infections, which were delaying the bones from knitting. I was in so much pain that I wanted them to amputate.”
“You had to make that decision?” she whispers.
I nod. “Yup. I mean… the doctors were at the point they felt it was the right way to go, although they were willing to keep trying if I wanted. But I wanted it gone. I was tired of being in the hospital and being in so much pain. I just wanted it gone.”
“Do you regret that decision?” she asks me bluntly, but with that still-sweet melody her voice makes. The question doesn’t bother me, because even her hard questions sound lovely.
“Yes,” I tell her without any shame. “I wonder what would have happened if I held on just a little bit longer. Not long after the leg came off, the pain receded and I became more lucid. Once I’d forgotten how bad the infections smelled, I regretted it.”
“Three months is an awful long time to be in pain like that,” she points out the obvious.
I shrug. “And the rest of my life is a long time to wonder ‘what if.’”
About the Author:
Since the release of her debut contemporary romance novel, Off Sides, in January 2013, Sawyer Bennett has released more than 30 books and has been featured on both the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists on multiple occasions. A reformed trial lawyer from North Carolina, Sawyer uses real life experience to create relatable, sexy stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From new adult to erotic contemporary romance, Sawyer writes something for just about everyone. Sawyer likes her Bloody Marys strong, her martinis dirty, and her heroes a combination of the two. When not bringing fictional romance to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to a very active toddler, as well as full-time servant to two adorably naughty dogs. She believes in the good of others, and that a bad day can be cured with a great work-out, cake, or a combination of the two.