“Life goes on, and if you let it, beauty comes back, all by itself.”
I adore author Alexis Alvarez. She is talented, funny, kind and supportive of all authors. That said, she is best known for her fiery hot, super sexy stories. And, believe me, I love them. They make me laugh and they definitely have me lusting after alpha heros. But A Handful of Fire is in a completely different league. This book is so beyond the pale. It handles a plethora of difficult subject matters in such an elegant and compassionate way. There is romance and love and understanding and there are arguments and fights and cursing. And at the end, the acceptance that is found is unspeakably beautiful.
Sexy, brooding Gabriel is a widow, struggling with raising and helping his pre-teen son, who has cancer. He often throws himself into his work (and superficial relationships) in order to avoid the realities of his situation. His son, Michael, is absolutely one of the best parts of this story. He is simultaneously angry and sweet. Bitter about the loss of his mother and the cancer that eats away at him, he still wants to be a child and tries so hard to get noticed by his dad and any other adult around him, often resorting to tantrums to achieve this goal. Sweet, compassionate Shai, is a therapist. Assigned by the hospital she is tasked with helping Michael to cope with his disease, but also with acclimation to social settings, and school, and to help tame the rage he displays, seemingly caused by the lack of control he has in his own life.
There is an almost immediate attraction between Gabriel and Shai, but it is one that is ignored and denied, for the sake of Michael, and because of Gabriel’s history and unwillingness to get close to someone else. Gabriel doesn’t believe in the therapy Shai offers. Shai is upset with the lack of attention Gabriel pays to his son. Michael is a child, with the comprehension level of an adult, and regularly curses, or acts out, as a way of gaining recognition from both of them. The trio of problems seems almost insurmountable. But with Shai’s unshakeable perseverance and patience, she coaxes Michael out of the darkness, and eventually even reaches Gabriel. They flirt on the edge of having an actual family relationship. But secrets and fears on both sides lead to hateful words, hurtful actions and the beginning of the end.
Will there ever be a happy ever after for any of them? Can Shai and Gabriel navigate the waters of a relationship, while simultaneously figuring out how to heal Michael, as well as themselves?
This book gives you so much to process- love, life, death, healing, and more. How do you cope with all of the above and how do you piece yourself back together after losses of all different types? How do we help others cope with their losses and help them to accept our flaws/imperfections? This book is overwhelming in the best of ways and I am still wishing I wasn’t quite done reading it…