Title: Everyday History
Author: Alice Archer
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 318 Pages
Category: Contemporary Romance
At a Glance: If you’ve ever read a book and wanted to bask in it, not only for the content of its characters but because of the character of its content, Everyday History is that book. The story, much like Henry and Ruben, is charming, thoughtful, sweet and uplifting, and defines romance in all its glorious iterations.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: If you woo, win, and walk away, a second chance is going to cost you.
Headstrong Ruben Harper has yet to meet an obstacle he can’t convert to a speed bump. He’s used to getting what he wants from girls, but when he develops a fascination for a man, his wooing skills require an upgrade. After months of persuasion, he scores a dinner date with Henry Normand that morphs into an intense weekend. The unexpected depth of their connection scares Ruben into fleeing.
Shy, cautious Henry, Ruben’s former high school history teacher, suspects he needs a wake-up call, and Ruben appears to be his siren. When Ruben bolts, Henry is left struggling to find closure. Inspired by his conversations with Ruben, Henry begins to write articles about the memories stored in everyday objects. The articles seduce Ruben, even as Henry’s snowballing fame takes him out of town and farther out of reach.
Review: Tom Spanbauer’s The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon is, inarguably, one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. Spanbauer also delivered a line in that book that has stayed with me since:
“The only thing that keeps us from floating off with the wind is our stories. They give us a name and put us in a place, allow us to keep on touching.”
This is Henry Normand.
Henry is an unapologetic Luddite who lives without the trappings of a cell phone and constant access and instead, lives purposefully and outwardly. Henry is a storyteller who spins yarns and gives them up as offering. He weaves the threads of his own and other’s narratives into a tapestry of elucidation, and he edifies those who are fortunate enough to hear those words. Henry’s everyday histories are seeds on the wind that find a welcoming soil and become something more beautiful with each telling. His stories act as placeholders in the chapters of his life. They are the bricks and mortar of a life built upon a blank slate—something that makes sense once he finds the incredible courage to share his most private secret and painful history. The stories Henry has collected over the years, and the everyday history he shares, have become the building blocks of a man who has substance and meaning. Henry shares his everyday history, piece by piece, and those stories captivate his listeners, among them Ruben Harper, in ways Ruben is unable to articulate until much later in his own everyday history.
Ruben Harper’s boldness is the paradox to Henry Normand’s restraint. Ruben is the forbidden fruit in this story and Henry, the unwitting gardener. Ruben is predisposed to the hubris of youth. He is accustomed to being in control and on the receiving end of attention, thanks to his natural charm and graceful ease, but being gifted with Henry’s stories in the classroom—yes, Ruben is the student to Henry’s teacher—leaves Ruben with previously unfelt emotions, and thoughts he’s never entertained before. Nothing happens between them while Ruben is Henry’s pupil. Not, however, for lack of Ruben’s trying.
Henry is the first and only person—the only man—ever to throw Ruben off his game. So Ruben gives up any hope of winning Henry, which only leads to Ruben becoming more comfortable, which leads him to becoming more confident, which leads to nothing but heartbreak, because Ruben does win Henry. But Ruben is only eighteen years old. He is also naïve. He doesn’t know how to acknowledge, let alone accept, the gift Henry is offering, and so Ruben compartmentalizes and shelves it as a prize he has no practical use for. And then Ruben becomes the explorer who sets out to spin his own yarns. He is certain there are other, maybe even better, gifts than Henry out there. He’s not about to limit himself to Henry when there is an entire university campus of potentials yet to discover. Ruben must forge his own history while he’s away in order to appreciate its significance and what it means to play a greater part in a full life story, and he does so at the expense of himself and of Henry. Admitting he loves Henry’s stories is effortless. Not being able to admit that he loves Henry too, comes at a great and terrible cost. For a time.
Henry’s newspaper column, Everyday History, is the seed carried on the wind that finds a welcoming soil in Ruben, and that seed grows roots, and it flourishes, and it cultivates the love that Ruben has felt for Henry for so long but that had not been allowed the care and attention needed for it to thrive. Ruben thirsts for stories now, and so he resolves to nurture that seed with the hope that Henry has not given up. But Henry is out of reach. For a time. Henry is being deceived. For a time. Ruben never surrenders the hope that he is not too late, though, because he needs Henry’s stories most of all. He needs to be a part of Henry’s everyday history because Ruben is the one story left unfinished, and he needs more chapters, needs to fill the blank pages to see how they begin. So Ruben offers Henry a gift unlike any other—an unselfish act of love and kindness, a place to lay down roots and become someone new.
If I were to ask a dozen people their definition of the word romance, I could conceivably get a dozen different answers, because we each bring our own everyday history to the books we read. I am romanced by language and am seduced by the idea that a story only works if the author’s voice is equal to the task of its telling. These characters and this story work only because Alice Archer had the will to give them voice and infuse those words with intent and emotion. There is no pretense in its telling. It targets the sentimental equivalent of an epic love poem, and it strikes true. There is a lyricism and repletion to Archer’s writing that is heartbreaking and rhythmic in its cadence, and then it reaches for and soars towards the happily ever after with the impeccable conviction of a love determined to survive in spite of the odds against its enduring. If you’ve ever read a book and wanted to bask in it, not only for the content of its characters but because of the character of its content, Everyday History is that book.
Everyday History is a story about family and friendships, about Henry realizing that he has been woven into someone else’s history and that he is integral to its telling. It is a story about love slipping away only to be grasped with heart in hand at the perfect moment. It is a story about holding on to hope for all you’re worth, about finding a soft place to land, and finding helpers to make it all possible. How could I help but fall in love with it? The story, much like Henry and Ruben, is charming, thoughtful, sweet and uplifting, and defines romance in all its glorious iterations.
You can buy Everyday History here:
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