Always – Love with a twist
As one might surmise, Sarah Jio’s novel, Always, is a book about love. It’s love with a heart-wrenching twist, however, beginning with the opening scene. Kailey Crane, a successful newspaper reporter, and Ryan, her fiancé, are celebrating their engagement at a posh Seattle restaurant. After dinner, Ryan temporarily leaves Kailey standing in the restaurant’s doorway while he retrieves his car. A homeless man crouches in the shadows and, on a whim, she offers the stranger the box holding her uneaten dessert.
Kailey is in the midst of writing a series about homelessness for the Seattle Herald, so she is particularly interested in the plight of such bedraggled men. For weeks she has been interviewing panhandlers and vagrants, along with the professionals and volunteers who staff the nearby shelters and the Seattle entrepreneurs who want to gentrify Pioneer Square, displacing the homeless and the shelters alike. Instinctively sympathetic, Kailey smiles at the bearded, undernourished man.
And recognizes him, Cade McAllister, the love of her life who vanished without a trace more than a decade earlier.
From that chance encounter, Always takes off running. Most of the novel caroms back and forth between 1996-98 and 2008, alternating scenes of Cade and Kailey’s romance with what is happening in the present. Kailey prowls the streets of Seattle, looking for her long-lost love. She doesn’t tell Ryan, which leads to guilt and misunderstandings. She finds Cade, loses him, finds him again. Realizing that he remembers almost nothing of his past life, she manages to enter Cade into a rehabilitation center for patients with traumatic brain injury. She also tries to piece together exactly what happened ten years before, when her lover disappeared without a word.
What complicates Kailey’s feelings is the fact that she loves Ryan, too. He is steady, responsible, predictable, and loves her dearly, whereas Cade was often spontaneous and flighty, though he loved her dearly, too. Why did he go missing, without a word? Large portions of Always take place in Kailey’s head as she attempts to sort out a complicated array of feelings for both Ryan and Cade. She loves them differently, unable—or unwilling—to give up either man. Her best friend provides a welcome sounding board, as does her boss. Both women knew Cade and know Ryan; both want what is best for Kailey. Whatever that may be.
Essentially, Always is a novel about many kinds of love. The love of friends. The love of youthful passion. The love of steadfast devotion. The love that endures. I won’t give any hints as to how Kailey solves her dilemma. Suffice to say that watching her sort out her options makes Always an irresistible story. With strong, intense characters and a complicated plot that doesn’t resolve itself until the novel’s finish, Always will satisfy even the most exacting reader who loves to read about love. – Ann Ronald
Also available by Sarah Jio: All the Flowers in Paris; Blackberry Winter; Goodnight June; The Look of Love; The Violets of March; The Bungalow; The Last Camellia; Morning Glory.