SURVIVING EMILY by Laurie Bellesheim, is more than a heartwarming story—it is an event. I cried with the characters, feared along with them, applauded their milestones, identified with their setbacks, and learned from the book.
Backstory: Emily, Abigail, and Stephen were close friends throughout high school, even after Emily became engaged to Stephen. On November 11 of their senior year—a dozen years prior to the story’s present—Emily died of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). At the time of Emily’s death, she was staying at the home of Abigail. Abigail found Emily’s body.
SURVIVING EMILY begins in flashback with the scene of Abigail finding Emily’s body and realizing that her friend is dead. It is a horrific moment, masterfully told, and from the first page and moving forward, the reader is immediately inside the book.
We meet an older Stephen and Abigail twelve years after Emily’s death. The long-term effects of their grief have kept them from finding love again. Scenes shift from past to present and from Abigail’s life to Stephen’s as they cope with their loss, or not, remember the shock, stumble, go their separate ways, or not, stuff or try to medicate away their emotions, seek help, and attempt to move on.
There is a subplot, involving Nancy and her child, Marie. Their story functions as catalyst forcing Abigail to examine her past. The dialogue between Nancy and Abigail is wonderful, as are the scenes with Abigail and her pregnant co-worker. They serve to flesh out the main character.
Laurie Bellesheim weaves the subplot into the main story arc, and an ‘ah-hah moment’ occurs when Abigail—recently married, pregnant, and working at the Department of Children and Families—realizes that she is the one who needs saving. Tension builds. Characters hang between life and death. Incredibly the lives of all characters intertwine in a believable way and have their part to play in the final, nail-biting scenes.
If I could wish for anything, I’d want a closer look at Carolina’s parents. I didn’t quite believe these characters, especially in one of the scenes between the father and Stephen, but that’s a minor point.
SURVIVING EMILY is a heartwarming, sad, and realistic tale of two people, the paths their lives take after experiencing the sudden death of their friend, Emily. Its theme is survival and growth after catastrophic loss. I read it in one afternoon and predict you won’t be able to put it down, either.
I’d recommend SURVIVING EMILY to any reader who loves a page-turning story and who keeps a box of tissues handy. I await Laurie Bellesheim’s next novel.
Presentation is professional: a cover that stands out in thumbnail view, professional editing, proofreading, and ebook formatting.
My Rating: 5 Stars
About the Author: Laurie Bellesheim, a published poet, belongs to several writers’ organizations including Writer’s Digest, Authors Den and Goodreads.
Laurie began writing at a young age, starting with poetry and short stories. In 2008, shortly after becoming a stay-at-home mother to three children, she decided to fulfill a dream of hers, inspired to write SURVIVING EMILY because of the loss of a close friend to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) when she was a teenager.
Not only does SURVIVING EMILY hold great meaning for her, but Laurie also hopes her novel will help raise awareness about epilepsy and the deadly condition of SUDEP.
Laurie was a social worker for six years. She graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She lives in Connecticut with her loving husband and three children.
Copyright © 2011 by Laurie Bellesheim
First Published in Paper
2011 by Dog Ear Publishing, LLC