Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU
Free On KU

What the Heart Remembers Most by M. Ullrich


Gretchen Mills has a fall, is badly hurt and is hospitalised. Her emergency contact is her wife Jax Levine. However, Jax and Gretchen are estranged and in the process of getting divorced. A month after moving out of their house and out of a relationship of almost a decade and a half, Jax is already involved with a younger woman (and the nanny of Jax and Gretchen’s son), Meredith. Responding to the call, Jax goes to the hospital where Gretchen is admitted. When Jax and Gretchen’s sister Amanda arrive, Gretchen is in coma. She is kept in a medically induced coma for a while as she has hurt her head and the brain needs time to repair itself.

When Gretchen revives, she has amnesia – she has no recollection of the past four years of her life. In her reality, she and Jax are deeply in love, her son is a baby, her relationship with Amanda is not so great and her estranged mother is alive. She tries to grapple with what new life she’s woken into – Jax is at best a reluctant presence at her bedside, her son is a hyperactive toddler, Amanda is fiercely protective and the strongest anchor she has and her mother has been dead for two years.

This book is obviously about second chances. As their past unfolds (mostly through fights and some notes that they had once exchanged), you get a real feel of the relationship. As in any long-term relationship, both the women have been right and wrong. However, since she has no memory of the worst years of their lives together, Gretchen is desperate to get back to what they had (and to what she remembers) while Jax is completely unwilling (and angry that she is the only one who remembers). Despite the author trying to keep a balance between the two, slowly Gretchen becomes the more likeable person and Jax becomes increasingly unlikeable. She is just not good enough as a person, a partner or a friend.

There is a steady timeline used as the chapter headings – and this is an important part of the story because suddenly, bam! Groundhog Day! Gretchen is back in the hospital and everything starts repeating except that she has the memory of all the things that happened and all the information she’d got the first time round while no one else seems to have lived that period.

We’re not sure about this narrative choice by the author because it detracts from the sobriety of the storyline making it kind of unbelievable. In fact, it served to disengage us from the relationship for a while, for quite a while.

We are also not either fans of or even understanding about collateral damage to a third person outside the relationship between the MCs in an effort to get the MCs together. In this, from not-quite-liking we slipped into intense dislike for Jax after she dumps Meredith. Valentine’s Day, Meredith has made the evening special in every way, bought a really thoughtful gift for Jax and declares that she loves Jax. Somehow Jax think that the appropriate response to Meredith's effort and her ‘I love you’ is to dump her. Really? After that we truly couldn’t care about what happened with Jax  -- though we still felt for Gretchen.

The writing is strong. Characters and relationships, well developed. But...

But, this book didn’t leave us positive feelings – in fact, quite the opposite.

PS: The rating is only for Gretchen and it would've been higher without Jax weighing her down.


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