The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
Published: May 21, 2013 by Simon Pulse
Source: ARC from publisher - thank you!
When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.
Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.
Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?
Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?
Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking. [goodreads]
Let me start by saying that this book touched me on such a personal level. I went into it expecting to enjoy the story based on so many glowing reviews and recommendations from other readers. What I came out with was something so much deeper, richer, and fulfilling. My heart is overflowing with so much emotion because of the journey this story took me on. It was an unexpected visit to personal things in my past, also shedding light on things I didn't quite digest... until now.
Jude is about to begin her last summer at home before she is off to college in the fall. What should be a summer full of best friends, ice cream sundaes, and hot boys, has now become the summer that will define the path she never expected to be on. Her father has early on-set Alzheimer's, a disease that's been referred to as "The Long Goodbye" and can be very debilitating to any family. Since Jude is the youngest of four girls, all who have grown up and set down roots in places far from home, that leaves the responsibility of looking after her dad while her mom is at work on her. It's a daunting task, and it's definitely heartbreaking to witness.
But then Jude discovers a gem from her father's past that has lit a fire in his eyes that she was worried had been burned out long ago. It's become her mission to help her dad repair his old motorcycle, in hopes that it will too repair his mind, and make him whole again. With this mission comes a Vargas boy. A long time ago Jude's sisters believed the Vargas brothers to be a curse on their family, especially their hearts. They made a pact to never let another Vargas boy break them in two. But Jude has a mission at hand that's bigger than a silly pact she made with her sisters. She wants to spend the summer restoring her father's bike and if that means she needs Emilio Vargas there to help, then so be it.
My heart truly opened up to the moments when Jude's father was taken over by the disease and his mind was not in control anymore. These moments became personal for me to read because my grandmother had Alzheimer's. I have memories of watching my mother struggle to cope with these situations. It was heartbreaking to watch then, and it was again heartbreaking to read about in Ockler's story now. But there's a beauty in these heartbreaking moments, too. A sense of vulnerability and strength that wakes up in the darkest of moments. I saw this repeatedly in Jude's character and truly admired her strength, even when she felt like the smallest human being possible. That sort of struggle, that sort of "long goodbye" is never easy, for anyone.
Beyond the disease itself, I connected with Jude and her sisters. Since I am also the youngest of four girls, I completely understood her frustrations, and also her joys of having sisters. Each sister telling you how to live your life, which decision to make, and what path to take. But ultimately they learn to let go, even if it's for a little bit, and understand that we all have to learn from our own mistakes and live our own lives. There's nothing quite like sisters and this bond really shown through in this story.
The relationship between Jude and Emilio was a slow build into something quite beautiful. She assumed so much about him, but he continued to surprise her by his kindness and patience. He, too, was able to be amazed by her as well. They balanced each other during a heavy moment in their lives, steadying the other, and proving that there is life, even when death may be just around the corner.
Ockler's words weaved a story full of heart, humor (yes there were often moments that left me laughing out loud), and admiration for a story that touched me well beyond its words.