Sunday, December 30, 2018

Review: And So We Die Having First Slept - Jennifer Spiegel

How do you tell a love story? And where do you begin? 
From birth? In bed?
Don’t you only know it’s a love story at the end?

It is always a special pleasure to be invited to read the latest work of an author whose books you have loved. Many thanks to Jennifer Spiegel - author of Love Slave and The Freak Chronicles - for a complimentary review copy of And So We Die Having First Slept (Five Oaks Press, 2018). In the way of the interconnected world in which we live, and by way of disclosure, I've gotten to know Jennifer a little bit - and admire her a lot - in the way one does with people with whom you've become friends on social media.

This love story begins with Brett, a "very nearly lovely" college student in the early 90's, the requisite young adult friendships and romances; the also requisite scarring of her heart. She and her friends graduate, pursue careers, witness 9/11, and eventually put more distance between them. Brett moves across the country only to soon thereafter experience a life-changing accident. As she grapples with disability and rehabilitation, she meets Cash, a younger man. They too-quickly fall in love and embark on a turbulent marriage and parenthood, through which Spiegel explores a myriad of complex and interconnected issues of self, partnership, love, despair, faith, emotional intimacy, and more.

Things I loved:
The gorgeous, gorgeous cover
The author's offbeat and irreverent humor
Fervent and frequently beautiful writing
A coming of age, and coming of "a certain" age story so closely aligned with my own personal timeline
A novel steeped both in nostalgia and in the lived wisdom of time and perspective
The movingly raw and deeply empathetic portrayal of a family in crisis

Brett and Cash's story is told looking to the past, and (largely chronologically) working back toward the present. Occasionally I felt a timeline hiccup: For example, a moment of profound revelation for one character had already seemed quite clear to me as a reader. Spiegel also bravely takes on an examination of lived faith versus professed faith, including a church's potential or failure to help Brett and Cash and their family. This strand didn't feel quite as organically integrated with the characters as I thought I knew them, and with their timeline as it unfolded, and so this one aspect of their story didn't have as much impact for me as it might otherwise have.

Brett and Cash are not easy characters, and theirs is not an easy love story. As one says, it's complicated.

But then, it wouldn't be interesting if it weren't.

Happy reading!


  1. That cover is a work of art. I wonder who created it? I've never heard of the press before, so perhaps they are newer, very small, or specialy.

  2. Anthony Vasquez painted it--and it TRULY is beautiful. It was a gift for his wife, and they let me use the image for my book.


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