Early into her senior year, Ellie O’Neal’s wonderful core family life is shattered when an accident claimed the lives of her only sibling and her father. Her existence becomes saturated with emotional pain and she is unable to let many people in. Her college years are rocky to start, but thanks to a good friend and a year of studying abroad in London, Ellie was able to allow love to come into her life. Her joy and newfound happiness is overshadowed once again by another tragedy and she found herself lost and alone, eventually traveling back to the place where she was able to find joy once before; London.
Coming to Terms is Ellie’s journey in facing her past traumas and learning how to move forward with her life. The book begins in a therapist’s office, where Ellie begins to talk about her childhood and the first major loss in her lifetime. The book’s chapters are largely in chronological order, moving forward over time as events happen, with larger flashbacks here and there. Each chapter is broken into shorter sections, which usually signify a short time jump. The effect is a book told via multiple short stories. There are a few places where this breaks down, when readers are suddenly thrust into the history of other characters connected with Ellie with little to none of the traditional cues like a line break or using quotations to frame the narrative as told by the other person. Many of the stories told read like a diary, quickly summarizing events rather than delving into them alongside the character, so while the book may play with some heart strings there is a level of removal due to the lack of immersion in some important life events.
Ellie’s story is an emotional one, full of love and sorrow. Her grief from the initial tragedy leaves a lingering pain through her life until she finally decides to try and learn a new way to cope with her complicated emotional state. The book reads like a memoir of someone working through their life experiences and is a great example that no matter how well-adjusted people think they may be, therapy really can make a huge difference in the quality of the life we lead. The overall message is a positive one, despite Ellie’s sad experiences and worth reading, but you may want to keep some tissues handy.
Whitney Smyth received a Master’s in Book Publishing and Technical Writing at Portland State University, following a Bachelor’s in English at the University of Arizona. She took over ownership of Portland Book Review in December of 2014. She also works as a freelance editor and can be commissioned at Smyth Editorial Services and spends what little free time she has on her own writing. Coming from a family of readers she devours an average of one hundred books a year, in a variety of genres. Her favorite authors are far too numerous to list, but include Alexandre Dumas, Mary Shelley, Jim Butcher, and John Green.
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