Natalie Hart: Pieces Of Me
Published By: Legend Press
Buy It: here
What The Blurb Says:
Emma did not go to war looking for love, but Adam is unlike any other.
Under the secret shadow of trauma, Emma decides to leave Iraq and joins Adam to settle in Colorado. But isolation and fear find her, once again, when Adam is re-deployed. Torn between a deep fear for Adam’s safety and a desire to be back there herself, Emma copes by throwing herself into a new role mentoring an Iraqi refugee family.
But when Adam comes home, he brings the conflict back with him. Emma had considered the possibility that her husband might not come home from war. She had not considered that he might return a stranger.
What I Say:
Thank you very much to Legend Press for sending me this copy of Natalie’s book. I have to say from the outset, after all the bad press bloggers have had this week, I have been feeling a little weary about it all. Wondering whether there was any point at all in my writing about this novel. I haven’t been asked to, I am not taking part in any blog tour to promote it, nor have I received any payment to talk about Pieces Of Me.
Let me tell you why I am taking a couple of hours out of my weekend to write this post.
Quite simply, I want to tell you about this amazing book. Why I loved it, what I got from it, and what it meant to me.
You can read my blog post or not, and decide if you want to read Pieces of Me. I blog because I love books and reading so much, and if by writing this post or any of my posts, I can inspire you to pick up a book and read, that’s enough.
Book Bloggers do this because we are all motivated by the same thing. We love books and reading, and want to share that with you all. Nothing makes me happier than when someone tells me that they have bought a book because I recommended it and they loved it. For me, that’s all I need, and I will keep blogging because reading and books will always be my passion.
‘And now in front of me, with fragments from all the periods and places of my life, it starts to take shape again. A silent call. An invitation. All the pieces of me.’
Pieces of Me tells the story of Emma and Adam. They meet, fall in love, marry and are separated when Adam is deployed on a mission in Iraq and Emma stays at home in Colarado. So far so simple. The difference is that this is the very first layer of the story. This is a love story unlike any you will have read before, because at the heart of it always is the reality of a couple who have met in a time of war and have experienced things that many of us can never understand.
Emma and Adam meet in a world where they are attempting to maintain a level of normality on a compound in Iraq, while all around them, the world outside is fighting a war. Friday afternoons where everyone congregates around the pool area, where they can drink and dance and try to forget what they have had to deal with, become the most important and stabilising thing for everyone. Sealed in this bubble, emotions are heightened and people realise that time is short, and life should be lived to its fullest while they can. It is almost as if that the pent up frustrations and anger at the futility and damage of what is happening outside their walls, gives some of them permission to disregard what is right and instead seize what they want and believe they are entitled to. Couples stray, women are preyed upon and are forced to defend themselves, and rules are made to be broken.
Emma is an administrator who interviews people who have applied for urgent visas to enter the United States. She with her friend Anna, make the best of their situation and form a friendship over their shared experiences. She meets Adam who contacts her after a blind date set up by Anna, to ask for her help in arranging for some contacts of his to leave Baghdad. When Adam and Emma realise they are falling in love, they feel invincible. They believe that their love will overcome everything and that they need to grab the moments while they can. Emma loves her job, but she decides to move to Colorado with Adam to start a new chapter.
Emma tries to make a life for herself in Colorado, but finds it far from easy. She is used to working, to helping others, and although life in Colorado is calm and peaceful, it does not bring her the fulfillment she needs. She makes friends with Kate, who is the wife of Adam’s friend Dave, and this gives her at least some contact with other people. When Emma finds a job in a local art shop, she meets Noor, who encourages her to attend a local art group attended by refugees. Finally Emma starts to feel she can connect with others again and have a reason to be, which is where she meets Zainab, and Noor suggests that Emma becomes the family’s mentor.
Through the novel, the idea of two worlds co-existing is something that comes through every chapter. Emma and Adam are living in Colorado, but the reality that he may well be deployed back to Baghdad is a constant and unspoken undercurrent. It is something that both of them know is only a phone call away, but that they are doing their best to avoid.
When the call comes, and Adam is told he is to be deployed, he starts to emotionally remove himself from the marriage, possibly to ensure he can focus on the mission he knows he has to do. Emma knows that this is happening, and for me, I felt Emma’s anguish and increasing sense of isolation – she just doesn’t know where she fits in any more. By throwing herself into mentoring Zainab’s family, she at last feels she has a purpose, that her existence in Colorado is finally validated.
When Adam’s best friend Dave is killed on the mission, the reality of the conflict, and the fragility of life makes Emma further question what this is all for. Then Adam returns home. Natalie’s pertinent writing makes this part of the novel the most brutal and traumatic. Adam is not the same man who went away. He cannot bring himself back to Emma and is instead pushing her further away as he sinks slowly into the life he has in Colorado. Adam is here, Dave is not, and Emma although sympathetic, cannot possibly understand what he has gone through.
There is a superb part in the plot, where Emma is forced to make a choice, and although she seemingly makes the right one, it starts a chain of events that pushes Emma and Adam to the limits of their marriage. Emma moves around Adam, worried about doing anything to provoke him as he dominates the space in the house. Adam’s time away has poured into every facet of their relationship and has pushed them further apart. Set against this now unhealthy and claustrophobic relationship, Emma finds solace and a sense of understanding by looking through a jar she has filled with fragments of things that have been emotionally important to her. Each one alone means something, but together, laid in front of her they paint a whole picture of her life. Emma now has to decide where the next piece comes from – and does it feature Adam?
Pieces of Me is a beautifully understated and consistently powerful novel. The reality of war and more importantly its effect on those who are part of it, can never be underestimated. Natalie has written a novel of our overwhelming and unsettled times, of love and loss, and makes us realise that often what is not said is much more important than what is. If I took one thing away from Pieces of Me, it is that life is short, and everyone has the right to be happy, to find the fragments that together make them whole.
I loved it.