Winner of the Historical Fiction Company's "Highly Recommended" award of excellence, The Things We'll Never Have is part mystery, part psychological drama set in 1960s Italy about family, friendship, and what happens when we let other peoples' lies become our truths.
The brightest things in Everleigh's otherwise dull days in 1964 London are colors, fashion she's not brave enough to wear, and the idea of the enchanted life she'll inherit when she marries Gualtiero. But her dreams are crushed when her beloved mysteriously vanishes before the wedding. Everleigh travels to Italy, convinced he's returned to his hometown, but when she tracks down the man everyone knows as Gualtiero, she has never seen him before. The question is no longer where her fiancé is, but who he is.
Determined to uncover the truth, Everleigh teams up with two unlikely friends. Soon, she unlocks a shocking truth about Gualtiero that propels the three women on a collision course that will shatter everything they thought they knew about family—and themselves.
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An Italian speaking Brit living in the US, Hilary Hauck is the author of the award-nominated From Ashes to Song, which earned high praise from the Historical Novel Society and the Midwest Book Review.
Her thrilling middle grade Christmas story, The Wrong Kind of Magic, has been called 'the magic of Christmas in a book'. Hilary's stories are also available in the Mindful Writers Retreat Series anthologies.
Hilary moved to Italy from her native UK as a young adult, where she mastered the language, learned how to cook food she can no longer eat, and won a national karate championship. After meeting her husband, Hilary came to the US and drew inspiration from Pennsylvania coal history, which soon became the setting for her debut novel. She lives on a small patch of woods with her husband and a cat with a passion for laundry. Learn more at www.hilaryhauck.com.
Apart from the obvious but reassuring honesty of red buses, black taxis in London, the greens have changed the most. Verdant garden of England fading to moss the farther south in France we go. A flourish of Alpine green over the mountains, patched by low clouds. The last stretch was less of a green and more of a slew of variations on gray. It bothers me he hasn't told me the colors would fade. Not that I should have expected him to tell me any such thing – it is perhaps the least meaningful thing he didn't tell me, which might make it a safe place to start the conversation.
World War II changed people in ways they never expected. All Everleigh ever wanted was to be loved and accepted, to fall in love with a man and have the life of her dreams... and it almost comes true until the day she knocks on his door expecting another routine day of their weekly dates, and he has vanished. All that is left to her to discover his whereabouts is his stories of his life in Italy, and a stack of letters in his desk. And what does she do? She packs her bags and begins a journey from London to Italy to find him and his family... after all, she is his fiance and they need to meet her... and she needs to find out what happened to him.
Why haven't I learned ot know these things? I've already been taken for a fool by the time I spot the cracks in people's facades when they tire of politeness, the manners that cover the way they really feel, coating them with a gentle sheen of acceptability through which, if you're not too naive, you can perceive the jabbing of jealousy, disdain, or nonacceptance.
Yet, things start unraveling the minute the colors through the train window change, and she steps out into his world. She meets a young woman named Marta, a single mother with a little boy who speaks English and can help her discover her fiance's parents home. Yet, when Everleigh meets the man and his parents with the name her fiance gave her... well, it is not him, and the mystery thickens.
As Everleigh's life falls apart, Marta befriends her and discovers the truth behind Everleigh's fiance's letters, and the revelation that the man Everleigh hoped to marry is someone who also disappeared from her life, as well as his parents and his sister's life after a supposed tragic accident.
Olivia, this man's sister, is blind, and she also is living a life dealing with things she will never have... such as her beloved brother who thought to save her from a tragic fall when she stumbled into the river. What he believes happened, the reason why he fled far away to London, and the realities of the grief he left behind in Italy creeps to the surface as the story unfolds.
“I mean, we need to change the way we see the past, to change the way we see the present.”
Three women, all very different, but suffering the same pain in different ways come together in a very unexpected and emotional way. All three learn to 'see' the world through each other's eyes, to accept the things they will never have, and to move forward with the things they do have. This is a poignant and moving story which will help any reader reflect on how a single act of uncertainty can change a person's life, but also how kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance can also do the same. When the world around them is emerging from the war, when Italians were still looked down on because of their country's involvement with Hitler, a sense of sameness, of understanding the human realities of suffering and grief shared between these three women helps draw a thread of beauty and color through the storyline. Connection. Acceptance. And hope.
We have survived this ordeal. We have survived the loss of the same man. Whatever differences we have had, our survival is more meaningful.
This book is reminiscent of the literary style of Doerr's “All the Light We Cannot See” which highlights the same sort of themes, and the author does a very worthy job in creating a literary picture with these well-developed characaters. There are a few open-ended questions left unanswered, such as the real relationship between the people of the town and the hidden German soldier they all take under their wing... but since he is a minor secondary character, not having the full picture on him doesn't take away from the storyline. This small matter is minute in comparison to the intricate details of this story which takes place within the space of one week, which is always a remarkable feat for an author to take on... to stretch a small time period into an entire novel. The author does this with great skill and brings the reader into these women's lives in a very intimate way, not to mention immersing the reader into the lush description of the people, the town, and the emotions. For those who love historical literary, deep with meaning for the characters and giving the readers a moment of pause to reflect on their own lives, then this is a great book to read. Very well done.
With all his certainties of things he will never have, he does not have the vision to see what he can have. After all the years he was my beacon, now I need to be his.
“The Things We'll Never Have” by Hilary Hauck receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence by the Historical Fiction Company
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