Elsie Porter is a librarian, estranged from her birth family, content to have the excitement in her life come from her friend Ana's wildly unpredictable dating habits. It's a quiet life, and she's happy with that.
Then on the first day of the new year, Elsie goes out to pick up a pizza for supper, and meets Ben Ross. They are instantly taken with each other, and exchange phone numbers. It's the start of a whirlwind courtship.
Six months later, Ben is dead.
In alternating chapters, we learn Elsie's story of their romance, and Elsie's story of Ben's sudden, pointless death in a traffic accident, and adjusting to his loss. Joy alternates with grief, and Elsie coming out of her shell to build a future with Ben alternates with her collapse into grief and her slow climb out of it.
Ana has trouble adjusting to Elsie + Ben, but she's a true friend, and is still there when Ben dies, to support her friend. But Elsie is extreme in her grief, and it's hard for Ana to bear up under the strain. Elsie needs more help than Ana can give.
Help arrives, from a totally unexpected direction.
This is a compelling and moving story, and I was especially drawn to the way Elsie is initially very isolated, and gradually becomes more confident, more connected to those around her, more aware of herself as someone with something positive to contribute. The new Elsie is someone better and stronger than the old Elsie, but the capacity was always there.
I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.