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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Last year I read and loved Carrie Elks's Fix You and I'm not quire sure how I missed that she had another book come out since then. Fix You was an epic book that covered 10+ years of its characters' lives in a very epic love story and in some ways Coming Down is like that and in other ways it's completely its own story.
Beth (for some reason she never seemed like a Beth to me) works at a drug rehabilitation clinic and is married to the older, wealthy Simon. In her college days she fell in with an artistic, drug-loving crowd and a close friend ended up overdosing, something she feels responsibly for even nine years later. When her friend overdosed Beth was kicked out of school and spent the next few years of her life lost. She started at the rehab clinic as a way of doing penance for her friend's death, but she quickly fell in love with the clinic, especially the kids of the addicts who she mostly works with, and the job becomes her calling in life.
Sadly her husband, who knows Beth didn't marry him for his money, but still wants Beth to be a bit of a trophy wife, disagrees. When the story starts Simon is often angry at Beth for how many hours she puts in at the clinic, the situations she puts herself in (which he perceives as being dangerous), and for becoming too involved with one family in particular, a poor heroin-addict mother and her daughter. Shortly after the story starts Niall, Beth's boyfriend from her college days, the guy who gave their friend the drugs he overdosed on, reappears in Beth's life. Niall is now a successful artist and he's showing at the gallery owned by Simon's daughter. When Beth needs an art student to teach art to kids at the clinic Simon's daughter recruits Niall, something he's obviously overqualified for, but Beth is both excited and terrified to spend time with him again.
The crux of the story is about Beth's relationships with Simon and with Niall and adultery is part of the story. At first Simon is more of a victim, it's obvious that Beth didn't marry him for money and that even though he doesn't want a wife with a career like Beth does has he also doesn't want a pretty face with no brain. But then Simon becomes kind of a bully and it was difficult to reconcile that Simon with the Simon from the beginning of the story and, eventually, the Simon at the end of the story. Niall, on the other hand is less complicated. He clearly is still interested in Beth and it's also clear that while it wasn't easy, he's been able to move on from what happened to them in college in a way that Beth hasn't been able to.
Beyond the romance this is really a story about Beth, a woman who, at 29-years-old, is still trying to figure herself out, something that a lot of people can relate to. After her drug-fueled days in college, the death of her friend, and being kicked out of college her life became frozen. She manages to move on with a career and a husband, but she did it by completely closing off her old self. Some of that deserves to be closed off, spending her days smoking white widow and her nights popping ecstasy probably isn't the best idea, but there were other parts of that person that were great and as the story goes on she begins to realize that and let those parts of her come out.
And that transformation is great for Beth, but not always great for the people around her, which is what the story is about. As she asserts herself more with Simon he continually tells her that they're better when he's allowed to make all the decisions. Even when she reconnects with Niall she knows she can't just fall back into her arms and forget everything else and she sets the terms of their relationship. With Daisy and Allegra, the mother and daughter she grows to close to, she even becomes more assertive, which is both good and bad. Even with her friend Lara she seems to speak her mind more as the story goes on.
Carrie Elks is great at coming up with interesting and stories and interesting characters, but her biggest strength might be her ability to show how characters change and grow over time and how that affects their relationships. For someone like Simon where the change all happened in the course of the story it didn't necessarily work as well, but for Beth and Niall, and even the characters back in Fix You, she knows how to make those transformations work.
Bottom Line: If you asked me which Carrie Elks book to read I would probably recommend Fix You over Coming Down, but that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy Coming Down quite a bit. Beth is an interesting, complex character and reading about her transformation was fascinating. At times the story was predictable, but the great characters easily made up for it and I can't wait to read more from Carrie Elks.