This was even better the second time. I think this might actually be the most balanced of all the books, in terms of tragedy vs. hope. In the Woods is just tragic all around, as is Broken Harbour, and The Likeness is still too full of Cassie’s grief over her partnership/friendship with Rob, and with what happens in the actual book, for it to feel much like a win when she gets proposed to by Sam. But here, devastating things happen to Frank (happened to Frank 22 years before), and Frank keeps going, and Frank learns. And despite the heartbreaking events of the book, he’s in a better place than he was at the start.
Lots of spoilers below.
I’d honestly forgotten just how heartbreaking what happens here is. The first time around I was a bit preoccupied with Frank and his family dynamic. This time, I really focused on everything that had been lost: Frank’s future with Rosie, Rosie’s entire future as a living person, the future he threw away with Olivia and Holly (but is beginning to repair at the end), all the lost potential of people inside Faithful Place, Shay’s preoccupation with what other people have that he doesn’t, and of course beautiful Kevin. That one hit me harder this time because I forgot it happened and I got attached to him all over again.
There’s a moment at the end of the book where Shay and Frank have a conversation, where Shay insists Frank is just like him, but that’s manifestly not true. Shay let his circumstances break him, and he in turn broke others. Frank uses his heartbreak and the things he lost as motivation to make the best of what he still has. Also, Frank got out. Maybe that was selfish, and maybe what Shay is really angry about is that he didn’t have the guts to be that selfish and take his life for his own.
There’s so much in here about conflicting desires, what you have to give up for others, and what you need to own for yourself. It’s just such a good book.