Summary: Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April's brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April - and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to "save" his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own--secrets he hasn't shared with anyone, even his fiancé. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April's life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral...towards salvation. - Grand Central Publishing
APRIL & OLIVER by Tess Callahan is just a marvelous book written by a very gifted writer. It is basically the story of April and Oliver who meet up after many years after the sudden death of April's younger brother. As children, April and Oliver were extremely close and knew each other better than anyone; however, during their separation, they didn't stay in touch and eventually grew apart. This book is, without a doubt, a character-driven novel; and I found all of the characters to be very real as well as very complicated. The reader can't help but be touched by the pain that both April and Oliver have in their lives.
Because this novel was so beautiful, I found myself reading it slowly and appreciating each and every page. I think another reason that I wasn't able to breeze through this book was because I found the story to be just gut-wrenching. I loved both April and Oliver (even when I wanted to just shake some sense into them) but they were both so unhappy and even self-destruction in so many ways. I had a difficult time with many of their actions (especially April's); and yet, I still became caught up in their lives and kept holding out hope that they would find some happiness.
The book is just incredibly well written; and it's very hard to believe that it is Ms. Callahan's debut novel. I was a little disappointed to find this out because I wanted to go back and read her prior books and now I just have to wait for her next one. Her prose is just exquisite and her dialogue is spot on. I can't get over how well she developed the characters in this book. They were all flawed and their interactions were complicated, but I felt as if I knew them by the end of this book.
A few weeks ago, Miriam from Hachette hosted Ms. Callahan on a BlogTalk Radio show. I was actually able to listen to the show live; however, I wasn't able to call in because of all the background noise in my home -- the two kiddos were around! Nonetheless, I was happy that I could still ask a few of my questions via the chat room. Ms. Callahan is a teacher, an artist, a writer, and on top of all that, a mother of twins; so I was very curious to hear how she handles everything! In addition, I was very intrigued to learn about her writing process and how she develops her characters. I think if you listen to the interview, you will agree that Ms. Callahan is a very interesting person. If you'd like to learn more about Ms. Callahan, check out her website as well as this Q&A.
One thing about this book that made it so very special to me was the ending -- I thought it was just perfect. I don't want to give anything away, but the ending did cause me to think a great deal about April and Oliver and what potentially happened to each of them. On the BlogTalk Radio show, I actually asked the author what she thought happened after the book ended; and I absolutely loved her answer. I'm paraphrasing, but here's the gist: "I have no idea and didn't really think about it. The characters were done telling their story to me." As a non-writer, I am just amazed by that answer, but I think it's so telling about the type of writer Ms. Callahan is.
I highly recommend APRIL & OLIVER as a book club pick. As I mentioned earlier, this book is very character driven so there is naturally a great deal to discuss about April and Oliver as well as their relationships. I was so excited to find this reading guide with 25 excellent discussion questions. In addition, there is also a reading guide for APRIL & OLIVER and THE POWER OF KNOW by Eckart Tolle that has ten more questions. A lot of the questions posed allow you to discuss the characters in this novel, but you can also touch upon the themes of loss, guilt, and forgiveness. It truly is a wonderful discussion book!
Thanks to Miriam for sending me a copy of APRIL & OLIVER.