Friday, August 11, 2023

Book Review: Wild with All Regrets

By Sara Steven

A decade has passed since Lucas Connolly lost his best friend—and the only man he’s ever loved—in World War I, but he still can’t shake his guilt over Jamie’s death. In fact, ever since losing Jamie, Lucas has heard his friend’s voice inside his head—confused about what happened to him, begging him for help. And now, suddenly, it’s not just Jamie’s voice anymore; now, a specter who looks and acts exactly like Jamie did before his death, and who is demanding answers from Lucas about what happened to him, has begun to haunt him.

Concerned about Lucas’s deteriorating mental state, his friend Angela encourages him to move on with his life, and even sets him up with a coworker whom she suspects is also gay. But Lucas is too consumed with the secret he still keeps about the part he played in Jamie’s death to even begin to form a healthy connection with someone new—and as Jamie’s ghost begins to recover his memories and get closer to the truth, Lucas’s obsession only deepens.

Ultimately, Lucas realizes that his only path forward is to first go backward—that only in examining his troubled youth, facing his deepest self, and shining a light on the shadowed parts of his past will he finally be able to set his old friend, and himself, free. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Wild with All Regrets provided what I imagine to be a realistic viewpoint of what it was like for a gay man in the early 20th century. The family dynamics that Lucas experiences, particularly with his father, had been nothing short of heartbreaking. When he sought out aid from others, he often found himself at the receiving end of either judgment and mistreatment, or at times, duplicitous behavior. His relationship with Jamie spans several years and ends up becoming a lifeline of sorts. He’s the only person Lucas can trust. 

It was hard not to want to ship the two men together. Lucas is all hard edges and rough sensibilities, while Jamie is lightness and levity. He helps to calm Lucas, while Lucas has an unwavering loyalty for Jamie. He would honestly do anything for him, even at the risk of jeopardizing his own feelings, considering Lucas is sure that his romantic feelings for Jamie are not reciprocated. Given the severity of their relationship, it didn’t surprise me that when Lucas loses Jamie to the war, that Lucas has a really hard time carrying on.

The time frames provided really helped in giving the reader a better understanding of who the primary characters are, and more importantly, why they are the way they are. With some chapters, both men are children. In others, we see them as young adults, and then, as grown men who are trying to navigate a world where there is little tolerance for those considered “different.” I felt like the descriptions of that era were spot on. Like I was really there in the early 1900s. 

The ghost aspect to this was interesting. Is Jamie really a ghost, or is it something Lucas has manifested to try to help him ease the burden of losing the great love of his life? Wild with All Regrets takes you into an introspective part of yourself while you examine that aspect and many others–it was a very deep experience.

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

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