After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?
At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.
In this richly told story where Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You, Kristin Harmel weaves a heart-wrenching tale that asks: what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting the past?
I can’t help but adore Kristin Harmel—not only is she a fellow University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications grad, but she lives here in Orlando, too. No, but really, it’s all about her books. The former People magazine journalist has written several women’s fiction favs like The Art of French Kissing and Italian for Beginners as well YA novels. She switched things up with her last novel, The Sweetness of Forgetting, a heartfelt drama that became an international bestseller and one of my (and my mom’s) favorite books of 2012.
The First Lines:
“It was 11:04 when Patrick walked through the door that final night almost a dozen years ago.
I remember the number glowing red and angry on the digital clock by our bed, the sound of his key turning in the lock. I remember his sheepish expression, the way his five o’clock shadow had bloomed into and almost-beard, the way his shirt looked rumpled as he stood in the doorway. I remember the way he said my name, Kate, like it was an apology and a greeting all in one.”
The Good Stuff:
Do you ever have dreams so real, so blindingly vivid yet absolutely normal that you wake up unsure if they really happened? Where you pause when you wake, rationalizing away what occurred and finding that one absurd link that proves it couldn’t have been real…
I do. All. The. Time. If I dare mention anything about my alternate slumberville universe to my dear husband, he’ll merely shake his head and wonder if someone’s slipping hallucinogens into my chardonnay before bed.
Luckily, my husband is alive and well and breathing loudly beside me when I wake. But in THE LIFE INTENDED, Kate’s not so fortunate. When her *perfect* husband Patrick, who was killed over a decade ago, starts sharing the sheets with her again, Kate’s life gets complicated.
Kate appears to finally be moving on: she has a successful career as a music therapist (very interesting) and a fiance who’s an absolute gem…on paper. But when Patrick—and their daughter—start joining Kate in her dreams, Kate loses track of that line between what’s real and what should be real.
When this amazingly real but imaginary daughter they never actually had begins talking to Kate in sign language, Kate takes lessons so she can fit into that alternate life she believes she should have led via her nightly dreams. Except… the sign language classes introduce Kate to the world of foster kids and the people who care for them, and certainly none of them lead the perfect lives they’d imagined. And these people make an impact on her she wasn’t prepared for.
One of my all-time favorite performers, Dave Matthews, usually switches around lyrics during live shows, and in my favorite version of Dancing Nancies he asks:
“Don’t you ever wonder…..
Maybe if you took a left turn, instead of taking that right
You’d be somebody quite different tonight…
Don’t you ever wonder, what could I have been? Anyone?”
This story is kind of like that. Kate realizes that the right turn she believes she was supposed to take has been washed away by a landslide, so she finally takes that left turn, and things go quite different. And different can be good. Something for us all to remember.
Read it. While this tale full of ghosts, grief, heartbreak, and disappointment could have been a sappy tearjerker, Harmel deftly allows us feel like we’re in Kate’s shoes and makes her plight believable. You’ll probably get at least teary a few times—I did, but it felt right. And the coincidences—there are a zillion of them, but I totally found my self buying all of them due to the way they are woven into the tale.
THE LIFE INTENDED is a sweet yet moving story about making room in your heart without crowding out those who’ve filled it before, about making the life you want happen instead of waiting for it to happen. It may leave you feeling as if we all somehow find our intended life, no matter how unconventional it may be.
The Life Intended
by Kristin Harmel
368 pages, Gallery Books
Release date: December 30, 2014
And don’t forget to check out these other books by Kristin: