“He sees the beauty where others don’t. He hears love when others only hear pain. He gives me the strength to become the person I’ve been terrified to be.
You will hate me.
You will love him.
I love him.
He has changed my world.”
Before reading Reclaiming the Sand my knowledge on Asperger syndrome was pretty limited. I knew aspergers was an autism spectrum disorder but wasn’t aware of the finer details. In fact, everything I knew about it, I had learned a few years ago from Shortland Street (a NZ medical drama). Hardly reliable info. So it’s fair to say that going into this book I had no character expectations.
The prologue captured me immediately. The writing was beautiful and I was instantly intrigued. This story is about Ellie and Flynn. Ellie McCallum has been brought up in the American foster system and life has been hard on her. Flynn Hendrick is a beautiful boy and an artist. He also has asperger’s. He finds it difficult to communicate with and understand others, he can’t read emotions or express his own clearly. But somehow these two beautiful (and in Ellie’s case, extremely flawed) characters find their teenage selves in an unlikely friendship. There are issues – of course. Ellie is a bully and Flynn is not exempt from her nasty tongue lashings. He is teased and taunted by Ellies’ friends and, sadly, Ellie herself. She’s embarrassed to be seen with him and hates the way he makes her feel. It’s way too confronting for her and she just isn’t equipped to deal with those type of emotions. After struggling with themselves and their friendship, a life changing event separates them and sends them on different journeys. They grow up and move on. But fate has other ideas and many years later their paths cross again. From there we follow them as they try to find themselves, their place in this world and their way to each other.
“I followed the man who had stolen my heart and stitched up my soul into the house of our shared childhood. Where I could remember the person I had almost been.”
This story broke my heart on more than one occasion. Particularly, as a mother, I found what both Ellie and Flynn went through hard to read. When you picture your own child in a situation like this it’s unbearable. Ellie’s self loathing was a hard pill to swallow and Flynn’s agony at the torment he faced daily was even harder.
“Your mom didn’t want you. We don’t want you. No one will ever love you. Those are hard words for a child to hear. Especially one who had already been to hell.”
But it’s not all bleak. They are both strong, and there was good in this story too. We got to see Ellie and Flynn experience many things for the first time; acceptance, connection, and unconditional love.
“He taught me that being Ellie McCallum was okay. Because she was flawed and troubled. But she was also smart and capable and worthy of love.”
There were so many levels of emotion going on while reading this book. A lot of people won’t understand Ellie and won’t be able to get on board with her character. How could she have treated him like this? Why does she do these things? It’s almost inconceivable. Almost. I didn’t find it impossible to forgive her like others might. Hard, yes, but not impossible. I loved Flynn with the fire of a thousand suns, he was loyal, forgiving and so strong. But I could understand how he would frustrate or upset someone easily – through absolutely no fault of his own.
“There was no coming back from Flynn Hendrick. Ever.”
It was intense and deep and brutally beautiful. It’s clear the the author researches the hell out of her characters and their various issues to make sure things are accurate. It’s a story that sticks with you and will give you a massive book hangover. I feel like I need a breather before jumping into my next book and I won’t forget this one anytime soon!