Title: Lost on the Edge of Forever
Author: Michael Haley
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Release Date: February 2014
Length: 235 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Curiousity Quills Press
Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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Leila, an ambitious and brilliant student, is murdered during her final semester at college, yet discovers she’s been reborn as a spirit resigned to haunt the school of her death. Alejandro, a listless and depressed freshman, arrives on campus eager to reinvent himself after eighteen years of awkwardness, as well as a devastating family tragedy, shake his sense of worth and faith to their cores.
The two lonely souls meet under the auspice of moonlit rain, and soon find themselves irrevocably, passionately attracted to each other. Leila discovers her spiritual body reawakening with sensations that make her feel alive again, and Alejandro discovers a kindred spirit who understands him like no one else. Intoxicated with each other, the impossible lovers begin to dream of finding a way to hold onto their own private miracle. Forever.
Yet how can Alejandro explain to skeptical friends and family that his soul-mate is dead? Why does Leila get the nagging suspicion that within their relationship lies the secret of her continued existence? An unexpected act of evil ignites these unavoidable questions, only to reveal in its aftermath the true purpose of Leila and Alejandro’s star-crossed romance. Will their love allow them to accept a profound destiny that surpasses time and perhaps even God, or is their love destined to die loud and young?
**Note: This book is recommended for 18+ as it contains very mature language and sexual content.
I shared a preview of this book in last week’s WWW Wednesdays meme. I said I had mixed feelings about the book, and would be hesitant to pick up another Haley title.
But I was still on my finished-the-book high, and a little emotional about the book for a few reasons. Having had more time to think about the book, I would probably still say I’m hesitant to pick up another of his books, but not because of his writing. Actually, yes, because of his writing. His writing touched on so many hot topics in our society and culture, and Lost on the Edge of Forever explores and explodes several of them.
I will be hesitant to pick up a Michael Haley book in the future because I am, quite honestly, going to bawl my eyes out. This is not just a contemporary romance novel, chick lit to share with the girls. It is so much more. Haley has worked some kind of magic in this book. I don’t know if I can put my finger on it and definitively tell you what “it” that magic is. I don’t know how to put it into words, or even if there are any words to express this book.
It contains such strong messages throughout that I think so many people today – especially the young – need to hear. There are also several messages for parents, particularly those with older children, and coming to terms with coming-of-age, death, religion, beliefs and values.
I say this because I have lost two relatives to suicide, which is brought up in the book, as well as a few friends, and I’ve had many friends who attempted. Some multiple times. I have seen the unbelievable ugliness that bullying has become, the way it is so easy to outcast someone who is different. I’ve gone my own rounds with religion, my beliefs and my values. Some differ greatly from my parents, and that was one hard row to hoe. Others are different in some aspects, yet have similar vestiges of my parents’ beliefs. And after swearing for over a decade I would be nothing like them, some are spot-on, exactly the same. I’ve also seen the side of grief in Alex’s family that is portrayed throughout this novel. In a lot of ways, I could identify with Alex, especially with his home life and family situation. And that scared me, a lot, and brought up resolved but still-painful memories. I wish Michael Haley had written this book sooner. It is a collection of all the things about love that our world needs to hear.
The title – Lost on the Edge of Forever – is a perfect title for this book. Leila, a victim of a college campus shooting, has been dead for about six months…but she is still walking around the campus, hanging out in the library. She knows she’s dead, perhaps a ghost, but nobody can see or hear her. She is lost and confused. Will she be in this state forever? What is she even?
“We don’t have to have sex for you to be wonderful to me. I don’t know what I did to deserve someone as smart and beautiful as you.”
“You were you. And maybe that was enough.”
This phenomenon of a novel explores many hot-button topics. I’m saying this now, loud and clear: if you have a mid-20-somethings child, or a younger child, you need to grab this book and read it. Yes, even if your kid is 10, or 7. Why? Because in a few short years, and maybe even sooner, your child will be experiencing many of the themes and realities of life explored in this book.
These are the themes and realities I picked out in Lost on the Edge of Forever:
- mental health
- family tragedy
- coping with grief
- sense of self
- structure of relationships
- with parents
- with siblings
- with friends
I’m going to talk about each of these topics, briefly, to give an all-encompassing glimpse into the world Alex and Lelia find themselves in – the world we live in today. I’ve made up a flowchart of sorts when I was thinking about the novel and how to explain it. Take a moment and absorb this.
Alex, a small-town guy with a strong base in his family and his faith, loses his mother in a tragic accident. It leaves him questioning everything about his God and life. Blake is his friend since childhood, and saves Alex from an unchangeable mistake. Alex blames his dad for his mom’s death, and emotionally clings to his younger sister, Dani. They have a love-hate relationship, in that they are playfully mean to one another. She calls him a tool, and he calls her a loser. But their lives essentially depend on one another, and they would both give up anything for the other. It is a bond created in the aftermath of tragedy and a mechanism to cope with grief and have some sense of normalcy.
After my sister died, I felt exactly like Alex and Dani feel toward their dad, except to my mom. I was young when she died, like Alex and Dani are when their mother dies, and I blamed my mother because I tried to make it logical and have reason. I clung to my three younger brothers, unsure what the future held for us. We were so very close, and my words and actions led them and left a lasting impact on them just as Alex’s near hatred for his dad is mirrored in Dani. They are emotionally disconnected from their dad, only with a slight tether to one another after Alex leaves for college.
Blake is not a good friend – in fact, throughout most of the novel I constantly wanted Alex to just blow up on him and end their semblance of a friendship. Blake is so mean to Alex: Blake is a somebody, and Alex is a nobody. (Enter Alex’s self-confidence issues.)
Likewise, Leila herself has experienced a personal tragedy, and her spirit has not left Earth. She tries reaching out to her dad and friends, who can’t see her, and is left alone, lost and confused.
The book changes point of view between Alex and Leila throughout the novel, and it is done so flawlessly that it is beautiful. The first few times, I did not even realize what Haley had done.
One day, Alex sees her. No one else can. Leila doesn’t want to lead Alex on, per say, but leads him in a way to discover who she is. Between the two of them, they try riddling out her existence, coming from different backgrounds and different religions. Despite what’s happened to her, Leila is still a firm believer in Allah, but Alex is angry with God and doesn’t believe. They delve into more than they bargained for, and it leaves them both questioning their beliefs. It is so out-of-this-world that Alex confides in his closest lifeline: Blake. That’s when I started really hating Blake. He was such a douchebag to Alex and Leila both. But Blake isn’t the only person I came to hate (even if momentarily) throughout the book.
Alex and Leila secret themselves away all semester and their friendship and romance develop. Leila shares some serious revelations from her life about being Iranian and Muslim and embracing her heritage and her faith, and how it completely changed her self-image and self-confidence. Given that Alex is like a wallflower, he also has self-confidence issues, which is explored from many aspects up to this point about his relationship with Leila, and although Alex seems to be saying words and acting out things on both sides of the douchebag-y hook-up guy/insecure, awkward virgin coin he shows that he genuinely cares about Leila.
Around about 70% into the book, I started getting odd vibes from both Leila and Alex. Due to their relationship in all its entirety – and the things said around this point – I got the distinct feeling that both of them had lost themselves in one another and lost their individual sense of self. After all that Lelia shared, it really bugged me that she had learned who she was and what she stood for, and then almost seemed to lose herself. Too much, too fast, which is a very common thing in today’s time.
Alex’s senior sister is also exploring within her world. With a few of Alex’s mentions of Dani’s ex-boyfriend-turned-semi-friend Calvin I got the distinct impression that Calvin had a dark, brooding secret – and that he wasn’t Dani…or the reason she dumped him. Alex only brings it up a few times, but it leaves you with the creepiest feeling. This comes into play in the last quarter of the novel in a monumental way that changes everything for Alex…and for Leila.
And that’s when I started hating Alex. I wanted to reach through the screen of my Kindle and just sucker punch him and rant and rave at how stupid he was being. I could definitely understand his anger, but after all he’d been through and the incredible insight that Leila has brought into his life I would think he would have handled it better. In that moment, he was the exact douchebag – no, more than the douchebag – that Blake is. I had to stop at this point and put my Kindle down for a moment just to breathe because I was so angry at Alex and heartbroken for Leila.
This is when Leila finds herself, truly. She seeks out the one person she needs, and when she’s left clutching at straws, she goes to her own grave and proceeds to pour out her heart to Allah. And then someone showed up who I was shocked to see enter into the book, and this person could hear and see her. (No, not Alex.) I loved everything this person said to Leila – and this is the biggest message that parents need to hear about accepting their children (and their children’s actions and beliefs) because of love. Just love. It left me with a lot of questions about this person, a niggling one that I can’t tell you about. 🙂
In dual juxtaposition, Alex is also getting a life lesson from his counterpart of Lelia’s mysterious surprise person. It gave insight into Alex’s family’s life from a perspective he’d never heard before – or even frankly cared for. It was so heartbreaking for a few reasons and at the same time a moment too late.
“Alejandro – treasure your miracles. You never know when you’ll say something stupid and ruin everything God gave you.”
At the same time, Blake redeemed himself a little in my eyes. Not much, but a little. I don’t understand him or how he works, and that is one thing that is never explained throughout the book, which did bug me. If I could get that insight into him – the reason he was the way he was – I think I could have handled him a little better.
The question of a higher being’s plan for us is the driving force for the rest of the novel. Leila at one point admits that if given the chance to actually change fate, she didn’t know if she would interfere with Allah’s plan. After being told Alex’s fate, and that she can’t do anything to change it, she makes it her mission to do so. A third mysterious character – who has revealed him/herself in many forms to both Alex and Leila, appears and closes the novel. At this point, my mind was blown! So many connections made. The ending is very existential.
I’m going to admit: I did not the ending. I knew what was coming, and like Leila, there was nothing I could do to stop it. I also really did not like the epilogue. I thought it drowned out the power of the final chapter, and diluted the message. It just didn’t seem to fit right with the novel, as it wasn’t a true epilogue in the sense we generally see used. It switched point of view throughout, which made it very disjointed.
*****About the Author*****
Michael Haley was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and cultivated its neighboring vicinities. He graduated with a degree in Psychology from Iowa State University, and now lives with his wife and little-dude-to-be in Bloomington, Illinois. When not writing, he loves indulging and dissecting books, film, and pop art from all canons and genres. Lost on the Edge of Forever is his first novel.
Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
There are TWO signed copies of Lost on the Edge of Forever up for grabs. Contest ends 7/15.