Monday, May 23, 2022

Book Review: Come Here Often?

By Sara Steven

Ever been in the gym, about to jump on a bike, when you get dumped and fired within minutes? Then you have a panic attack and you’re physically unable to walk out of the door, so you’re stuck there? Yeah, that.

I’m Kat and today is officially my Day of Change. Step 1: signing up to Nashville’s fanciest health club. My idea of aerobics is lifting Dunkin’ Donuts, so I thought the toughest part would be getting on a treadmill. Wrong! I didn’t count on being dumped over the phone and fired from my job in the space of minutes. Now, that’s how you work up a sweat.

As my world unravels, and I have visions of turning into Great Aunt Gladys with her surplus of cats, I’m paralyzed by a panic attack. I can’t physically walk out of the door.

Unable to step outside into the hot mess of my life, I secretly spend night after night sleeping on massage tables, avoiding security guards, hiding from my ex, and drinking a lot of green juices. I won’t lie, flirting with blue-eyed personal trainer Marcus, who’s carved like a Greek god and has a smile that makes my stomach flip-flop, definitely takes the edge off.

But it’s just a matter of time before I’m caught… Can I get my act together? Will Marcus forgive me if he finds out the truth? And how personal is too personal when it comes to personal trainers? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

In some ways, Come Here Often? reminded me of the movie The Terminal–but the main character in this story isn’t stuck in an airport terminal. She’s stuck inside of a health club! 

That type of scenario alone had me intrigued. What would that even look like? I felt the author did a great job of showing that with Kat. Ellie Center also delved deep into the inner workings of someone who is dealing with panic attacks and anxiety, and each and every time that Kat would try to break free from the confines of the health club, I was right there rooting her on, wondering if today would really be the day. And when it didn’t happen, I felt the same burning disappointment that Kat felt. 

I appreciated how on one hand, there was a certain thrill and adventure in living in secret within the confines of a gym. It becomes a bit of a security blanket for Kat, while she’s dealing with recent traumas that only aggravate her anxiety. On the other hand, there was truth and honesty in how morose she feels in having to even hide out there in the first place. What started out as a means in taking those first steps into change, and I think initially wanting to do something that would impress her ex, slowly begins to change who she is–the question is whether that change is for the better, or if it’s at a detriment to her. She’s not entirely sure. 

I liked the other characters within Come Here Often? I think there can be a certain stigma about people who practically live at the gym, but the people who support Kat at her health club are motivational and caring, not to mention HOT. (Marcus in particular) One of my favorites had been a fellow female health club member who Kat discovers is just as secretive as she is–and super competitive. The scenes with the two of them were funny with witty dialogue while they tried to one up each other. And I really enjoyed the ending, where we get to see Kat step up and find ways to overcome the anxiety. It was touching. The premise behind this story was unique and engaging, making this a five-star read for me!

Thanks to Bookouture for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Ellie Center was born in Savannah, Georgia and raised by a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst. She studied philosophy in college but eventually went on to become an audiologist. After traveling to Israel and living in a Kibbutz, she moved to Nashville, where she started her own business and also started writing novels, falling in love with the process of putting her imagination down on paper. She writes songs in her spare time and lives with Hannah, her cat and a Lab named Joey.

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