I’ve actually read this story a few times, and each time I’ve read it, it’s actually improved a little in my mind, though I have complicated emotions about it. I’ll first say off the bat that I love Megan Hart’s writing, as usual. She has a way of taking me straight into the character’s mind and making me empathize with what the character experiences, even if I don’t always see eye to eye. I love the depth of the character intimacy, and not just in the sensual scenes. This story hit a little closer to home with me than I thought it would, but not for the reason people might think.
Emma is a 32-year old woman who has fugues, which are a bit like seizures in that there’s a disconnect from reality that tends to happen for a few seconds to a few minutes. It’s controlled her life for a long time, ever since a childhood accident put her in a coma and she woke from it with lingering effects. When her fugue states finally seem to break for a time, she gets the chance to live on her own and for herself – driving, getting her own place, and working a job away from her parents. She meets a friend in Jen, and the two quickly bond, but especially over a former indie actor and artist named Johnny.
I identified with Emma on the level of her fugue states (I grew up with a similar condition, so I know the confusion, the fatigue, the disassociation, loss of time, all that jazz when she describes it. I think Hart did a good job with the portrayal – it felt realistic enough). Hart presents the states in an interesting time-travel/paranormal direction in this book, though, something similar to a paranormal measure that was in “Deeper”. I ran with it, thought it was interesting, though a little weird at time because of Emma’s growing fan obsession with Johnny. I understood parts of her attraction to him, but at the same time felt a bit put off by it. Especially when she seems to hold on to the identity of the old Johnny she knows in the fugue states than the one in the present – who is much older than her (he’s in his fifties, about as old as her father. Johnny also has a daughter about two years older than Emma. Made for some awkwardness in the story, which is probably a give and take).
Emma and Johnny’s chemistry is smoking hot in the fugue realm, and the level of description from Johnny’s distinct accent and mannerisms to his lifestyle is interesting to see, especially in the division between the past and present. I liked his character development and the contrast of his character in the past and present day. It was odd to me as the story went along because I wasn’t sure how or where the story would go for a time – whether it would ground itself in the reality or lend towards the fantasy. The narrative trades between Emma’s present day and the reality she lives with Johnny in the fugue states.
I have to admit I haven’t seen a novel take on this specific theme in this genre (and if there are others that work with it, I’d be interested in reading them), but I’ll admit there were points where this narrative lost me and put me off. Some of it was on the level of Emma being obsessed with inserting herself into Johnny’s life in the present. I could handle her fugue states with some disbelief, but going into the reality of the present and her trying to link up with him was awkward at best and borderline obsession at worst. But at the same time, there’s a connection that builds into something solid, or in Emma and Johnny’s words, they “collide” more often than not. At a certain point it did feel repetitious, and I wish it could’ve scaled back on that a bit. The way the story concludes did confirm my suspicions on where it would go, and I thought it tied up okay though it still left me wanting more from it (maybe with more resonation and building) than it provided.
This is a narrative I think will definitely strike people differently depending on suspension of disbelief for the elements it presents and theme (there were times it tested me). I don’t think it’s the best work I’ve read from Hart (not by a long shot), but I still appreciated the idea of the story as well as the parts of the narrative that drew me in.
Overall score: 2.5/5 stars