spoilers ahead for Sarah Jio’s “Always”
Always tells the story of Kailey Crane and the night she leaves a posh restaurant in Seattle with her fiancé and comes face to face with a homeless man who turns out to be her ex-boyfriend, Cade. A reporter already investigating the rights of the homeless in Seattle, Kailey is determined to find Cade and more importantly, to find out what happened to him to leave him homeless. Her insistence at not just finding Cade but in helping to rehabilitate him to bring his memory back puts her relationships with her friends, coworkers and fiancé at risk.
This book will make a great Hallmark movie adaptation. I can see it now. As with most Sarah Jio books, I left feeling just a tad underwhelmed. The concept of this story, running into a homeless person who turns out to be your ex and trying to find out what happened, is gripping; the execution just was not that gripping. The writing was not as wow as it needed to be to tell a story like this. It was not bad by any means, it just wasn’t jumping off the pages.
I took a days-long break between reading this book to start and nearly finish a different book if that gives you any idea of how slowly the book was moving. The root of this story and what happened to Cade is a mystery, nonetheless, and I was compelled to read until the end to find out what happened to cause Cade’s traumatic brain injury, amnesia and eventual homelessness. The ending eventually became easy to guess and when the “mystery” was solved, I was mostly happy because I’d proven myself right.
Kailey’s character was a hard one to like because it was so impossible for her to let go of the past. Even after finding Cade and putting him in a rehabilitation center, she couldn’t separate herself from him. This was good in the sense that she helped him solve what happened and ultimately put that person (s) to justice, but after that, she simply couldn’t leave well enough alone. Her fiancé, Ryan, was waiting patiently for her during the time she spent with Cade, which is a rare thing for someone to do, and yet she still left him for Cade.
I think this was the most surprising part of the book for me because initially I thought that moving on would be a significant theme in this book; in that sense, allowing Cade to get his life back and move on would be important to Kailey. Throughout the book Kailey says their connection was magnetic, that he was so amazing and made her feel so loved and happy, but I just didn’t see it. I kept thinking I had missed something, where was he so amazing? The flash back scenes just didn’t prove to me that Cade was someone worth doing all of this over; out of good heart and kindness, of course, but out of love and passion? It just wasn’t there. Cade’s character is described as being charming and kind of a flirt, but I didn’t see any of that. It simply didn’t add up for me that she would go back to someone who was so one dimensional, when her fiancé Ryan was so much more vibrant than Cade.
On that note, one thing I did like about the book is the flashback style writing which Sarah Jio is known for. The story goes back between 1998 when Kailey and Cade met, and 2008 when she meets him again. I always like going back in a character’s memory to see what’s going on behind the scenes, and Kailey’s flashbacks shed a lot of light on her present-day 2008 life.
I would recommend this book for anyone looking for something light to read, that’s a standalone book not part of a series, and that has a relatively “happy ending”.