Life is full of ups and downs and we are always told not to dwell on the bad. The result? Endless times where people go through heartbreak, horror and hardship feeling as though they are the only person in the world who has gone through what they are experiencing. Heartsick is a deep dive into the complexities of human relationships – the soaring highs, the crashing lows, and all that lays in between.
As far as first time novels go, this is a cracker. Jessie Stephens comes out of the gates with a book that I did not want to put down, that in the event that I did put it down I wandered through my mandatory task thinking about how quickly I could get back to Heartsick.
I love this style of long-form writing, and Stephens writes with comparable skill to Lisa Tadeo’s Three Women. I don’t say that lightly. There was no moment where I was brushing past one of the story lines. There was no moment where the character’s fell down in my mind’s eye. All three story lines are interesting, unique, and handled with care by the story weaver. Stephens explores so much of what it is to love in the modern day, with all of the pockets of heartache that sit in the gaps. But she also articulates those aspects of love and loss that persisted well before social media and easy international travel, and will persist long into the future.
This is a book of heartbreak, of longing, of calculated risk, of unintended and intended consequence, of isolation, of desperation. I read books to feel, so getting deep into the sad and dreary at the hands of a good artist poses a serious risk to me! I read two books at a time as my norm, so typically I pair a lighter read with a heavier one, but I couldn’t do that with this. I didn’t have time to co-read because I didn’t want to stop Heartsick until I saw it through.
Somehow, although I was deeply affected by the storylines, I still looked up from the pages with a positive mindset. I mused on the issues the book raised and the story still sits in my mind a few weeks on from reading it, but I never found myself wallowing. I also rather liked the book end discussions Stephens provides, which doesn’t always happen.
This well paced, interesting piece of human exploration is well worth your time.