Living by Lise GoldLiving by Lise Gold is, at its heart, a slow burn romance. But passion is not the only focus as the story will take you on an emotional journey that starts with dark despair and on the way gives you hope. Finally, you will end with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

Ella Temperley is a famous actress, and since the death of her sister, she has been existing, instead of living. She has continued to work but is just going through the motions and has been unable to do anything more than slide into depression. The story starts with her sitting at the waterline on a beach in the early morning on the anniversary of her sister’s death, having taken a cocktail of alcohol and tablets and mulling over her life.

Cam Saunders is a yoga instructor who lives in a house on the beach. She is about to start her early morning exercise routine when she sees a young woman walk into the sea. She runs across the beach and rescues the woman. They spend the day together as the woman recovers. When Cam realizes who Ella is, she promises to say nothing to the media and suggests she get some help. They part.

Some months later they meet up again and so begins their friendship.

The Characters

Ella Temperley has everything a girl could want, including fame and money. Gold manages to create the feeling that you are with Ella. You understand that your life is a series of situations that are getting increasingly difficult to cope with mentally. Her suicide attempt is harrowing. When we realize that she is going through the depression stage of grief, her feelings start to make sense, and we know that she has got to work her way out of it. Those of us that have had to deal with the loss of a close loved one can recognize the place Ella finds herself in. Her character arc is sweeping in that it allows us to see how Ella deals with her issues, including allowing her lesbian feelings to emerge and dealing with them while her life is in the spotlight.

Cam Saunders becomes an encouraging rock in Ella’s life. She has similarly had issues with grief and is both self-effacing and different from the type of people Ella usually meets. She realizes that she has an intense connection with Ella and that the life of a famous woman can be very invasive. I love the way the two women’s characters intertwine throughout the story.

There is a cast of lesser characters who provide the women support. I particularly liked the therapist, Theresa who throughout the story, gives the voice of reason to Ella and is an excellent counterpoint to some of the thoughts that Ella has. Cam’s yoga studio manager Vanya is adorably daft and says and does the most outrageous things. She provides most of the humorous scenes in the book and gives the story that extra lightness.

The Writing Style

Despite dealing with grief and suicide and all the background to it, this is not a depressing story. Gold’s light touch and sensitive writing ensure that yes, you feel the anguish, but you don’t get weighed down. You know Ella is moving forwards, and there is enough story that is outside of her internal struggle to keep you invested in the book. Some chapters are from Ella’s POV and some from Cam’s POV, and this provides an elegant contrast in the way the story unfolds.

The really gripping thing that Gold gives us is that Ella, and Cam (to some extent), theoretically have it all and yet both must learn how to deal with the elements of mental illness, grief, and friendship to eventually find love.

The Pros

Living is a beautifully told story that will suck you in in the first pages and will keep you turning those pages. The issues that Gold deals with will leave you marveling at her deft approach. She has an irreverent sense of humor which she often introduces as a contrast to something which is frightening and will ensure you are laughing out loud.

The Cons

I have no personal cons, although I would be remiss not to mention the story may have triggers for some readers where it discusses suicide, grief, and depression

The Conclusion

I believe this is Gold’s best book so far, and her excellent handling of an emotion that has consumed a person and won’t let go is what makes it so gripping. The way she has taken what could be a difficult subject and somehow made it light and life-affirming makes you feel good. And if you add in the slow-burn romance and the coming out story, then you will close the book smiling but remembering the journey.

Excerpt from Living by Lise Gold

Cam leaned over the railing in an attempt to get a better look at her, then decided something was off, so she walked down the porch steps to the beach.

“Hey lady, are you okay?” she yelled.

The woman stood up without acknowledging her and started walking into the sea. Her long, blonde hair was furiously whipping in the strong gusts of wind and she looked almost ghostly in the dim light.

“Hey!” Cam yelled again, picking up her pace now. Still no reaction, but the woman was wading into the ocean at an alarmingly fast pace now. “You’re going to get yourself killed. This is no weather for swimming. The storm is dangerous, don’t you get that?”

It was then that Cam realized what was happening, and she started running as fast as she could, taking off her hoodie in the process.

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