Sunday, September 15, 2013

In the Spotlight: Saving Amy by Nicola Haken

Today we're shining a spotlight on Saving Amy by Nicola Haken.  
This is a beautiful story about about recovering from the unspeakable and finding love.  

Eighteen year old Amy’s surname may be Hope, but her life contains anything but. She drinks, she sleeps around, she cuts… anything to help her escape the agonising existence growing up between her mother’s drunken wails and her father’s fists. But nothing works. There is no escape. And Amy wants out…

Enter Richard Lewis – the doctor responsible for saving Amy’s life after her drink and drug-fuelled suicide attempt. Thanks to his own hidden demons, Richard is drawn to Amy and her situation, and despite the incessant warnings from both his own mind and his jealous ex-lover Joanna, he feels compelled to help her.

But how will Amy feel when she discovers Richard’s attachment to her is born out of his own guilt? He was her last resort – her last chance at being saved. Can anybody save Amy, or has she finally reached the end of a very long, torturous road?

(Not recommended for younger readers due to language, scenes of self-harm and sexual content)

If I had to describe Saving Amy in one word it would be "intense".  Despite the fact that there is an uplifting, hopeful thread to the story, it is also bleak, sad and distressing to consider the life that Amelia (Amy) Hope lived is, in fact, lived by many.

The first few chapters of Saving Amy were incredibly disturbing - a violent and abusive father, a mother detaching herself from her surroundings with a gin bottle, drug abuse, random sexual encounters and self harm ... I was devastated by the horror that was Amy's life.  To me her choices were all about survival, which is kind of ironic because every one of them took her so close to death.  These chapters painted a graphic picture of Amy, her life, and her quest to escape it so well that I felt like I was right there with her and I so wished I could reach out and do something to show her that she did have a worth.

Following a suicide attempt Amy finds herself in hospital.  Dr Richard Lewis is her attending physician.  Amy is painfully reminded of the time he had helped her once before, embarassed by the tingling she feels when he touches her and the flush that involuntarily colors her cheeks. Richard has secrets in his past that no-one else knows and he is drawn to Amy.  He steps into her life and while Amy doesn't fully understand why Richard is doing what he is doing, she accepts what he offers on the basis that it will be short lived, an escape from the pain that is her life, until she has to return home again.
"I wanted to stay but I needed to go.  I thought I loved him - if that was an emotion I was even capable of - but I knew he didn't love me; he just wanted to save me."
Amy was a wonderful character.  Having lived her life in fear, hiding her horrific home life from everyone, she was incredibly strong, incredibly resilient.  Mature beyond her eighteen years Amy had essentially resigned herself to her life, deciding it was what she deserved and sought to release her pain in increasingly risky ways.  Richard saw things in Amy she wasn't able to see.  
"Everything you consider to be wrong with you are just the results of you trying to be strong for too long - trying to cope alone for too long."  
As much as Richard was focussed on 'saving' Amy, it was through his connection with Amy that he was also able to begin to recover from his own past. 

Saving Amy is beautifully written.  I found myself lost in the story.  At times I had to put it aside briefly as the intensity of the subject matter was a little overwhelming.  The beatings Amy suffered at the hands of her father were quite graphically described at times and as a parent it was difficult to read,  particularly knowing that her mother was effectively allowing it to occur. 

Despite the bleak elements of the story there was a thread of hope, a promise of happiness, woven into the story that had me persisting to the end, and I am very glad that I did.  There is a happy ending, although the path is not smooth.  There were some elements that were unpredictable, as well as elements that were heartbreaking although critical to the outcome.  Upon finishing Saving Amy I was left feeling drained, sad that Amy had had the life she did, but happy she had managed to find a way to rise above her experiences and become so much more than she ever thought possible.
4 out 5 stars

Nicola Haken was born and raised in Rochdale, England and has lived there ever since. Being a true home bird she now resides on the same street she grew up on with her parents a few doors up and her sister and family a few doors down. She lives with her husband, four children and rescue puppy, Pippa.
When she isn’t locked away playing with her imaginary friends she can usually be found running around and picking up after the kids (and husband!), or chasing the dog before he swallows the sock he’s stolen from the washing pile!
Nicola is always happy to hear from her readers whether it be to inflate her ego by telling her how fantastic she is, recommending a book you think she’d enjoy or just saying hi!