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Why, hello there.
I’ve been reading a lot of Sawyer Bennett, and I actually was listening to the Pecker Briefs and Stone at the same time. I stopped listening to Stone when it got too dark and heavy, and rightfully guessed that the ridiculously-named Pecker Briefs would lift my mood.
This is the second Pittsburgh Titans novel I’ve read, after reading some of the other hockey series books. I remember when I read Baden that there was a disclaimer at the beginning talking about how heavy these books were going to be, and Bennett wasn’t kidding. Stone is heavy. Pun mildly intended, viewer discretion is advised, and spoilers, maybe.
So. Stone is the brother of a plane crash victim who gets called to take his brother’s place on the team. Almost everyone on that team died in one shot, so the owners were scrambling to find replacement players. Stone and his brother, Brooks, were pitted against each other by their father while their mother stood by. The brothers grew apart, especially after Stone was injured and could no longer play major hockey.
Brooks left his friend Harlow in charge of his estate in case anything were to happen to him, and in the process of dealing with the legal matters of his brother’s death, Stone grows closer to Harlow. Harlow helps Stone get to know his brother better, and Stone learns to let go of his guilt over their estrangement. Of course, Stone and Harlow eventually become romantically involved, have a fight and then get back together again, then live happily ever after.
This book will really resonate with those who have painful family relationships. I really liked the juxtaposition of Harlow’s functioning, happy family with Stone’s dysfunctional, toxic one. It is so difficult for survivors of childhood abuse to feel comfortable in peaceful situations. Either we feel that we aren’t good enough and don’t deserve the peace, or that it’s too good to be true and won’t last long, so we better not get used to it. I could really identify with Stone’s struggle. I also liked seeing that even those “perfect” families have their struggles.
Harlow is an alcoholic who is choosing to pursue recovery. Overall I’m not sure how I feel about this plotline. There’s already so much going on in the story that I’m not sure it was needed. I have a feeling it might have been added just so that Harlow could have a “thing” too and not just Stone. It did lead to some interesting conversations and plot points, but felt out of place for me either way.
Another thing that bothered me was the very on-the-nose mental health wokisms. They started coming out of the blue near the end, very tell instead of show. The end of the book felt rushed in general. I would have liked just a bit more time to explore the conclusions that the characters made about their health and recovery, especially recovery from childhood abuse.
One part that really struck me like a lightning bolt was when Harlow expressed that if Stone can’t be there for her even when things get bad with her addiction, then he should leave. If he can’t have her back when she falls, then she’s not able to continue in the relationship. If you’re like me, you might also struggle with wondering whether your baggage will be a burden to someone you want to be in a romantic relationship with, and therefore whether you can ever have one. This part of the book really turned things on end for me. Of course I’m going to keep working on myself and learning how to be as healthy as I can in my relationships, but this side of heaven I’m not sure I’ll ever be fully cured. Having compassion and strength for a loved one’s relapses is never easy. But I think when the recovering individual takes hold of their own worth and declares that they will not tolerate anything less than support and commitment, it shows a commitment to their own growth that is courageous. Harlow’s bravery in asserting her own worth, despite her brokenness, really touched me.
I’m not sure that I can handle reading this book again, because it’s so heavy and triggering. Not that I mind, because I’d definitely read something like This Close to Okay over again, even though it’s technically more intense than this book. I don’t know, there’s just something about it. I’m not really rooting for the relationship of the characters because it doesn’t feel like they need each other. When they were just friends, it was so beautiful. I was definitely more interested in their journeys as separate individuals than what it would mean for them to be together. By the end when they had their classic misunderstanding, I was like, “Yeah, I guess they’re the main characters, so they have to get together.”
I’ve found the same thing when I read Baden as well. I was more interested in Baden and Sophie’s separate healing journeys, or maybe even just Badan, and didn’t really care much about the romance. In both books, it took a very long time for the mains to get together, so maybe that’s part of it. The romance just doesn’t feel central. If either of these books had been solely about the men overcoming the trauma of the plane crash and everything that came with it, I would have been very interested. Just stories of men healing through the power of brotherhood, you know?
I’m really looking forward to reading Drake. I love Brienne, and really want to see her story!
As for Stone, I’d give this a 6/10. The writing was beautiful and there were some very illuminating moments, but overall I felt it was rushed and could have used more focus.
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~ Romans 15:13