Summer Book Club- Leah Stewart…

With only five days left, in the month of June, I figured I should probably go ahead and talk about our June book. First of all, I have to say that I loved this book a lot. I first fell in love with Leah Stewart’s writing style when Harper Collins mailed me a review copy of Leah’s newest publication Husband & Wife. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of her before, i felt like the way she painted words was exactly what my reader heart had been searching for. In the Myth of You & Me, I found myself wanting to highlight paragraphs and sentences which had a way of making my spirit hum. Wrapping up this novel, at 1:45 a.m. left me feeling inspired and electric. I spent 276 pages having absolutely no idea how resolution would come. As I read, waiting to find out what happened those 8 years before, between Sonia and Cameron, I found myself fearful that it would be some sort of a let down, even though I couldn’t fathom what had torn them apart.

Here is what I deeply love about the two Leah Stewart books I’ve read: Redemption. She deals with flawed people, deeply interwoven relationships and working past all of that. The people in her stories may be betrayed, but in the end they’ve worked through it and been better off for it. I am a firm believe in that being exactly how life SHOULD be…
Pulling a few questions from the Reader’s Guide, if you read the book I’d love to hear your thoughts/opinions… :
1} How would you describe the relationship between Oliver and Cameron? Is it purely a familial one or are there romantic undertones?
2} Why does Oliver force Cameron to seek out Sonia?
3} How are Cameron and Sonia shaped by their relationships with their parents?
4} Do YOU think what Sonia did to end her friendship with Cameron was forgiveable? Why? Why do you think she did it? Is what Cameron did in response, forgivable?
5} Which of the two friends do you sympathize with more? Why?
6} What kind of relationship do you imagine Cameron and Sonia had after the end of the book?
Two things, being the word-lover that I am, that I absolutely loved about this book were on page 205 When Sonia told Cameron that she was a dreamer who didn’t believe in the dream and on page 204, the last paragraph: All at once it strikes me that as well as I know Sonia, I know only one version of her- that all you know of a life are the places where it touches your own. Under the fluorescent lights of the waiting room I’m catching a glimpse of the places where I don’t exist. It’s strange and diminishing, like looking through a telescope at the stars.
I love relationships. I love the connections that mingle between people, and the unique things they share. I love writing them, I think I love reading them a little more. LS writes amazing relationships.
In response to the guide questions- i think that the relationship between cameron and oliver was clouded. More familial, but as with many mentorships, there is a thread of romanticism which strings between the individuals. Every true romance involves some sort of heroship, and that is certainly an element in mentorship as well. True romance isn’t about sex, but about a sort of selfless form of becoming, adapting if you will, to become someone because of someone else. It isn’t about being untrue to yourself, but learning of who you are with and because of that other person. Cameron’s very routine was to care for and be with Oliver, in whatever capacity he needed at that moment. She was content to be whatever he needed her to be and it honestly doesn’t get more romantic than that.
I believe it’s possible that Oliver knew Cameron better than anyone else ever had. I am sure that he knew she would do this one thing for him, (the pursuit of Sonia) and he knew that the entire ordeal between the two girls was what stood in the way of Cameron truly living her life. I like to think that, prior to Sonia’s letter, Oliver lost many hours to trying to decipher what must have happened to make this girl he loved like his own child, to make her so detached.
Sonia seemed to seek approval from anyone around her, and yet love the few she truly “let in” intensely. That traces perfectly back to the lack of love or kindness from her mother and the devotion of her father. At the same time though, Sonia is evident to not being much of a fighter. She doesn’t ever fight for herself. She seems to just drift and accept that she just isn’t very worthy. I would guess this would be the blame of both of her parents. While her dad loved her, he never protected or defended her. As much as she loved both of her parents, this way of raising her only told her she wasn’t worth fighting for.*
In the same way, Cameron grew up in a detached way of living. She was raised to run, whether things were working out well or not. During the one portion where her dad was teasing her about the photos of will and she got upset, he just grew defensive and retreated. Her life portrayed this in her decisions. Sonia had seemed to be the only thing which grounded Cameron and provided her with a sort of “home base”, and then she realized that going against her instinct to run had only hurt her- she became determined NOT to be a repeat offender… Well, until Oliver.
I do think what Sonia did, could be forgivable. Sonia was right though, she didn’t do it alone. Owen was also to blame. Sonia’s actions were impulsive. In both instances, clear thinking was no present- once due to grief and once due to alcohol. Not that these are excuses, BUT with the depth of Cameron and Sonia’s friendship- there is a certain element of it (Owen being some sort of extension from Cameron) which makes sense. Wrong is wrong, and this was wrong BUT what Cameron did was worse. It was calculating and wicked. It was meditated and clearly thought out- It was an act created to crush Sonia’s spirit and break her heart. The last person in the world Sonia had ever intended to hurt was Cameron, but she realized that her decisions had. Cameron’s gut reaction was to hurt Sonia, and hurt her badly.
I imagine them having a friendship which was reborn and continued to grow. Oliver, through this journey, had taught Cameron that running wasn’t really working as well as she had thought. That time period, 8 years prior to our view of their story had stunted her in bitterness and this journey had helped her to let that go and see things as they truly were. Cameron had been looking at Sonia though eyes which seldom focussed on the truth. Often time her soul’s eyes were filtered through jealousy or pity. it had been that way for several years. I do believe they were able to have a different, less co-dependent sort of friendship. One which came naturally to them, and added to the beauty in their lives but wasn’t the focus of their lives…

13 thoughts on “Summer Book Club- Leah Stewart…

  1. I dont' usually (ever) read first preson books. They get into my head in a bad way and mess with the constant dialogue I have with me and self. But I love that line you quoted…had to think for a moment, envision it…nice. very nice.

  2. i am SO glad you said that because that is how I feel about third person. I feel detached from third person stories and always thought I was crazy.

  3. I will write more when I don't have kids hovering, but for now…My favorite line: (paraphrased because I had to return the book to the library)"You're not a pessimist. You're a dreamer who doesn't believe the dream."That put words to something I've known about myself for years, but never could quite articulate.

  4. I really liked the book, too (finished it yesterday afternoon). I liked how the theme of the story of a life or relationship kept coming up, ie, Oliver's memoirs, Sonia's reference to "the myth of you & me"… also loved the observation that no matter how well you know someone, you only know the part of them that they reveal to you. Leah Stewart is a wise woman :)I will try and work on answers to the questions — my brain is hurting from all the chemistry I've tried to stuff into it in the past 6 weeks (reading the book was a necessary and welcome distraction! Thanks!)

  5. Sorry I'm late to the party:) I loved the book, but at first I hated the way it ended. It felt like the end of Thelma and Louise or that she just ran out of time to finish it. Then the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was the perfect ending. If she'd chosen to end it differently than I wanted, I would have hated it, but this way, I got a bit of closure, I knew that everything turned out OK. In the end I realized she told the important parts and skimmed over the other stuff. The important part is everyone found their way back to each other. They were all more experienced, more mature versions of themselves. Living life teaches you grace and forgiveness and how to love someone even though they are flawed. Life teaches you how to be a better friend.1. I think Oliver was the father she always wished she had. He was able to love her for who she was and still make her a better person. Her real father seemed to only love her when she was the person he wanted her to be. 3. I think their relationships with their parents DEFINED who they were. Sonia's father adored her and she KNEW it. Knowing her father's love was the only way she was able to cope with her mom. Sonia deeply needed her mother's approval. She seemed to project those feelings to every relationship, and she seemed destined to self-destruct when she "failed" any of those relationships.Cameron learned from an early age to keep everyone at a distance…even her show-no-emotion father. When she called him about Oliver's death, he didn't even know who Oliver was, that speaks to her father's perpetual distance. Distance hurts less when you leave. Then when Sonia slept with Owen (more than once)…the two people she had finally connected with…distance was her only defense. It was like a reflex.4. I get Cameron's fear . . . that men only wanted her because they couldn't have Sonia. It's how I was feeling for Cameron when I was reading. But the older Owen seemed to be a genuine, loyal, good person. He probably really did love Cameron way back then…I still understand Cameron's need to leave Owen and Sonia. As for forgiveness…that's a tough one. I struggle with my own forgiveness issues. Can you truly forgive someone and still feel guarded with them?6. As for their future friendship…I think it goes back to forgiveness. Can you truly be friends with someone you feel you feel guarded with? Maybe that 's what life teaches you. It's possible to be a good friend, even love a friend, even though you've both done some pretty nasty things to one another. Maybe because they have so much history together, they will be able to forgive and trust…I agree with Misty, less co-dependant, adds beauty to their lives but not the focus of their lives…less teenager-ish and more grownup-ish.

  6. this is why book clubs are awesome. Jenni, I totally see everything you said, but I don't think I really did before. I mean, some of the things, but your perspective really challenged my own view of things… I have loved the discussions that this book, both online (via blog and email) and in person that have occurred.

  7. I guess the biggest way I grew as a person while reading this book is this: All of your life experiences make up the person you are today. If you meet a really gracious and forgiving person, someone willing to work on a relationship, you would find a person that has been through some tough times. During tough times, you learn that sometimes stuff happens, it may or may not be your fault, you may or may not have control over it, but you still have to deal with it. Living through those situations, making it through your own stuff, lets you look past other people's stuff. You learn how to empathize instead of judge. They are the kind of people I want as friends…cuz I've got some stuff that is better left in the past :)

  8. 1. I agree with Jenni here about Oliver being the dad that she wished she'd had. Likewise, I think that Oliver really felt like Cameron was his daughter, and maybe that she "got" him better than his actual daughter did. I think the romantic comments come in because neither of them were really sure how to allow themselves to feel these things. I don't think there was any truly romantic feelings going on, though.2} I don't think he does. Maybe I'm just an unsentimental and overly independent person, but I just didn't think Cameron was really doing it for Oliver. If it was just him wanting her to do it, then she would've been like… "You're dead. You can't make me to do that." But I think that Oliver gave her a really good excuse to go out and look for her friend. I think he knew her well enough to understand what the letter Sonia sent meant to Cameron, and he hoped that his "command" for her to go deliver a package would be the prompting that she needed to go do something that she'd been wanting to do for a while.3} I don't really have anything to add here. I agree with what you and others have said.4} I think that everything is forgivable. I kind of wonder why Sonia waited so long to make contact (or am I forgetting something? Did Sonia ever try to make amends and continue the friendship?). Not saying that Cameron's actions were right, but they were the response to being wronged. Sonia started the "wronging" so to speak, and I think she could also have come clean a little sooner. I think that Cameron's reaction was more understandable than Sonia's initial errors. But, ultimately, I don't really think that most people understand forgiveness until they find themselves forgiven by Jesus.5} This is hard! I don't know that I sympathize with either one more… I really sympathize with Cameron in the conflict between herself and Sonia, but I think that Sonia's childhood was worse.6} I actually imagined their friendship not being a main part of their lives. Of course, part of this will depend on whether or not Cameron stays with the high school guy (can't remember his name). If they stay together and stay in the area, then I think the friendship has a chance to heal, but more likely, I think they'll exchange Christmas cards and comment here and there on a facebook status, and that will be about it.Overall, I loved the book, and I think I'm gonna grab Husband and Wife, as well.

  9. Oh, yeah… and Oliver's secret. On the one hand, I felt really bad for him to lose the woman he loved. But then, I also thought that he shouldn't have made the choices that he did…. also, I guess I don't feel like there's only one person who is a "soul mate." I tend to believe that love and marriage are as fulfilling as we allow them to be. My husband and I are not "perfect" for each other, but our relationship kicks butt because we love each other anyway, and have even learned to love the imperfections. I kind of feel worse for his wife and daughter. I wonder if his wife was given second best simply because he thought that he was "truly" in love with the other girl. ???

  10. these are great points, Sarah. i really loved Husband & Wife so I'm anxious to hear how you like it… you had great insight… Since time has passed and I've had so many great discussions on the book I too have decided that (to me) they likely never did gain a deep, personal friendship but that they likely always stayed connected… You and Jenni both gave me a lot to consider in re: to Oliver…

  11. This book hit very close to home for me because something of a very similar nature happened that ended a long friendship with my best friend and I. I now call her the Ex-Best Friend. But we hated each other when we first met in grade school. Couldn't stand the sight of each other. Then, through a crazy twist of events, we ended up discovering we had a lot in common at a Girl Scout overnighter. We became best friends and celebrated our friendship in some really amazing ways. And we were pretty much inseparable for a decade. Then one fateful night, the friendship-destroying turn of events. We had both made mistakes and were both victims of one man who I now consider an alcoholic and a sociopath, among other things. And for years we never spoke. Then one day, a friend request arrives on Facebook and she wants to be friends again, after five years of zero contact. And just like Sonia in the book, the ex-best friend was getting married and wanting a reconciliation. I don't need to know what happens next in the book. I know that Cameron and Sonia will never completely trust one another again, that they will have less in common than they used to and they will live separate but fulfilling lives, only with the closure they both deserved. And yes, everyone is influenced by relationships in their life. People come and people go, but the memories last forever.

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