A journey she never expected…
Kirsty is happy. Really, she is. After five years with her boyfriend, Harry, she’s ready to take things to the next step and turn that spare room into a little nursery. And she thought Harry was too.
Only, it turns out that Harry’s ‘big news’ is actually not that he wants to try for a baby, but that he wants to travel to South America – with Kirsty! She’ll just have to trust that after their trip of a lifetime, Harry will be ready to settle down for good.
Arriving in hot, steamy Ecuador it soon becomes clear that Harry is hiding something. Something that he’s been hiding for years. And as Kirsty’s dreams are at risk of shattering, she begins to pick up the pieces of the life that she’s put off for so long…
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Pieces of my Life is the début novel from Rachel Dann taking both the reader and it's main protagonist Kirsty on a journey they will never forget. Set in the South American country of Ecuador the cover although lovely belies the depth of the issues explored throughout the story. There is a lot more to this read than one might initially bargain for and I mean that in a good way. If one were to judge the cover and take a quick read through the blurb you would be forgiven for thinking this is just another of your average women's fiction reads.
A book in which the main character escapes from it all to find themselves once again after dealing with some issues. Instead I was pleasantly surprised as the story unfolded as there were so many strands to it with the author tackling issues I would have given scant thought to before. I also loved the fact the story was set in a country that I had never read about before and in doing this Rachel Dann brought Ecuador and its capital city Quito to life and made me feel like I was alongside Kirsty as she came to grips with her time away. I read in the author notes that Rachel lives in Ecuador and her love for this country radiated from the pages. She brought to life all aspects of the country, from the tourist element and to the more harsh side which many people do not get to see.
When we first meet Kirsty she is on her way home after another day of the same stifling routine at work. She works for a local housing charity having studied law but has never completed the last stage in order to become a lawyer. Kirsty has been with Harry for several years and there relationship has descended into cosy domesticity. They have the house and mortgage but two essential things for Kirsty are missing – marriage and a baby. But Harry has made his stance clear on these two life changing events and he will not be shifted. He views marriage as something which is there to control and suppress and he is happy with their arrangement. As time has gone by Kirsty longs for a baby and when she arrives home one day and Harry has news she hopes with all her heart that he has changed his mind and they can start trying for a baby. The news he imparts couldn't be further from what she expected to hear. He wants to take time out from everything and go travelling for 3 months in South America. One last big trip before they really settle down and embrace what the future holds or she Kirsty is led to believe. It's almost like she has to strike a bargain with him. Harry had spent his gap years travelling and maybe the travel bug hasn't quite left him yet.
From the start I didn't like Harry at all. I felt he was very dominating over Kirsty and she never stood up to him but seemed to meekly go along with his plans. Even her boss could see she was made for better things, both professionally and personally. I thought she put her own needs, hopes and desires firmly on the back burner in order to let Harry indulge his own wishes. Surely a relationship in which you feel valued and loved works on an even playing field? I didn't feel a huge connection between the pair and it seemed to me Kirsty was running after Harry doing what he wanted in order just to keep him as she was so desperate to have that much longed for baby. It was almost like she was placating him, always trying to please him and never upset him as he wielded the power in terms of her long term dream.
Before she knows it Kirsty has arrived in Ecuador. She couldn't fail to be excited and pushes her misgivings aside. She has great plans for their time away visiting various tourist spots and countries but it soon becomes apparent Harry's mind is elsewhere and once again he dictates the terms of what goes on. It's not that Harry was cruel or abusive it's just Kirsty seemed so easily led by him because she was fearful of not having him and being back to square one in terms of relationships and love. Harry for the remainder of the novel seemed distant, distracted and just very bothered by everything. He gets a job in a language school. Why did Kirsty let him go along with this when they had cemented firm plans for their time away even before they left England? This is just another case in point where I felt she was meek and gave in far too easily.
I had my suspicions as to what was going on with Harry fairly early on and I was proven correct but if this had never happened Kirsty would never have been given the chance to find herself and take the opportunities presented to her in Quito. Having thought Kirsty was weak in some ways the story started to turn on its head as she begins to realise the opportunities presented to her and the trip awakens her adventurous spirit. She let Harry off doing his own thing even though she knew something wasn't quite right and she embarked on her own personal voyage. Thanks to Liz and Roberto whose apartment they rent Kirsty is exposed to a side of the city which allows her passion for law and equal rights to come to the fore but at the same time her own relationship with her father is explored.
When I first picked up this book I never would have imagined it would feature the prisons of Ecuador and in having this element present in the book it exposed a very different side to the country Kirsty imagined she was visiting. As Liz and Roberto run the charity which organises volunteers visiting the female prisoners Kirsty can't help but fail to become involved and it was brilliant to see her doing something under her own steam rather than being influenced by Harry. The reader started to see a different side to Kirsty emerge one where she can do things for herself, follow her own instincts and embrace what life was throwing at her. She became stronger and more passionate for what she believed in.
In the prison. whilst on a visit with volunteer Maria, she meets Naomi from England but she had been a drugs mule and was caught. This all felt very familiar given in recent years the two women which hit the headlines. We all have judgements and opinions on this but I felt the author really provided a balanced view and showed the reader a different side to the situation and that all things are not all as clear cut as the media would have people believe. The scenes in the prison were vivid, realistic and not once did the shy away from the harsh brutal facts. They were certainly in stark contrast to the sun soaked streets of Quito full of vibrancy and life. The author created two very different pictures of life in Quito and I could see why Kirsty became so involved in Naomi's situation because maybe she saw a little bit of herself within her when she hears her back story.
Kirsty's eyes became open to a whole new world she never knew existed. It was great to see her becoming more independent and sticking up for what she believed in. She almost started to led a separate life from Harry and I was happy to see this as I never felt he was the ultimate man for her. Sebastian – the British Consul in Quito was a welcome addition to the story and a complete contrast to Harry. I felt he brought light to the story and was always there at just the right time to pick up the pieces from various incidents that occur. He was so helpful and always went beyond the call of duty but I felt it was all genuine with him with never an ulterior motive. I enjoyed seeing the working relationship develop between himself and Kirsty as they both work for the one common goal. They were on a unique and bonding journey together.
There were lots of other little sub plots ongoing within the overall storyline and that would be my one criticism of this book, that there was just that little bit too much going on. We had Kirsty's father appearing and a few other things which at times I felt led to the story spreading itself a little too thinly. Ray and Gabi who run the hotel where Kirsty and Harry spend the first night in were great characters but then they seemed to disappear for most of the story and reappear towards the end. I would liked to have read more of them. Perhaps also the book was slightly too long but that's just my own opinion others may find the length was ok for them.
Pieces of My Life was a very impressive début from Rachel Dann. Clearly she is an author with lots of promise. I enjoyed this story and became deeply invested in a positive outcome for Kirsty but I feel the author has only scratched the surface in terms of her writing capabilities. I'll definitely read whatever she writes in the future and hope once again it will be set in another wonderful, exotic country with an equally as good storyline.
Many thanks to Harper Collins UK for my copy of Pieces of my Life to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.