"sometimes grief is the price you pay for love."
lindsey frydman's debut novel, the heartbeat hypothesis, pushes its characters to the brink with the amount of loss they suffer through. audra madison is a heart transplant recipient. two years after her transplant she's decided to honor the life of her donor, trying to recreate her "done-it" list. but in order to complete the list she needs a photographer, and she'd like to use the same photographer emily did, even if it turns out to be emily's brother, jake.
audra knows that she is asking a lot of jake. and there are so many lines she crosses every time they get together. she wants to know about emily. she wants to know more about jake. she feels like she has no right to be asking these questions because emily died and she lived. and jake keeps blowing hot and cold and audra can't tell if it's that he hates her or if he hates that he likes her or if he just likes her. and the confusion is killing her, because the other terrible thing she's realizing is that she's half in love with jake and it seems to wrong, except when she's with him and there are those moments where everything just feels right.
and then audra's best friend is killed in a car accident and jake's family dies and it's so over-the-top. did these characters really need to lose everyone in their lives? jake wasn't even on speaking terms with his parents and he had questions about how emily really died, questions that remain unsolved by the end of the novel. mainly because there is no real way to answer those questions satisfactorily, and also because how she died doesn't matter. she did and audra lived and that's what matters.
so this book is marked by loss and depression and the knowledge that we only have a finite set of heartbeats. audra in some ways feels as if she is living on borrowed time, her heartbeats belong to emily. but emily's heart is audra's now. and it's her body and brain that keep it going. and maybe the heartbeats we have are finite. but that doesn't mean we can't savor every moment of them. through all the darkness, both jake and audra are drawn to light. the fact that jake is a photographer and is constantly working with light is no coincidence.
their journey is one filled with shadows and hurt and pain, and they aren't left without scars. but in the end, this book is about hope. it's about finding all the light and using it to make something beautiful out of all the dark shadows. a photograph. a new love. art. something to hold onto.
**the heartbeat hypothesis will publish on march 20, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled:embrace) in exchange for my honest review.