What if you woke up in a hospital room. The last you remember, you were leaving college for the day. But the grizzly man across the room claims to be your husband. He says you have two boys, the youngest getting ready to graduate high school. And then the nurse makes you look in the mirror.
Such was the world of Noelle Hueston, the result of a convenience store hold-up, where the robber had murdered the clerk. Noelle had managed to escape that deadly situation, but had slipped on ice, and hit her head. Now she had lost twenty-five years of her life.
Noelle ultimately decides to let her “husband”, Eli, take her home. She slowly begins to piece together the missing years of her life. She had been an art student in college. Did she still paint? Her two sons, strangers. Could she learn to love them? Why was there an empty bedroom in their house? What had she been doing, returning from a city hours away during a snow storm? And why had Eli known nothing about her trip that day?
And what about Eli? He is patient with her but she senses their lives had drifted apart.
Eli finally decides to tell her about their daughter, Kelsey, murdered by by a young man in a robbery. Noelle, of course, has no emotional tie to the daughter but Eli is wracked with guilt. Eli had been the sheriff at the time. The killer was a man he had stopped but had let go on because he knew the kid, and trusted him. If Eli had checked in with the department, he would have found out that the kid was wanted.
Noelle and Eli had dealt with their pain within themselves, in their own ways, and they had drifted apart. Noelle, unknown to Eli, had rented an artist studio. Eli had frequently secluded himself in his ice house, fishing.
Noelle is now determined to make a new commitment to this man, to make this marriage work. Then the revelation that Eli has been spending way too much time at a widow's house hits her like a brick and she flees. She can't make this marriage work! She'll make a new life of her own, as an artist.
Eli and deputy son Kyle realize that Noelle saw the murdering robber and he could be after her. They've got to find her before he does.
Warren says in an afterward note that she had had dreams … and then married, had four children, then began writing books. What if you could reset your life? What if you could keep parts of your life and cut out others? What would you do?
Having read an article about a man who had fallen and lost memory of twenty-five years of his life, she began to explore the idea of starting over. Can broken relationships be healed over? Could a painful past now be worked through? Can love win out? Read more of the story behind the story here: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/books/the-shadow-of-your-smile.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is very thought provoking. The plot has a great combination of attempts at restoring romance and relationship, and a little suspense. The reader shares in the struggles of several people trying to deal with Kelsey's murder (including her friend who had actually been the one scheduled to work that day).
There is a discussion guide which would make this a great choice for reading groups.
Susan May Warren is the RITA Award-winning author of more than thirty novels. She served with her husband and four children as missionaries in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time while her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She is the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Find out more about her at www.susanmaywarren.com.
Tyndale House, 384 pages. Publisher product information.
I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.