In New York Times bestselling author Beth Harbison's most emotional novel ever, a fractured family must come together at a beach house haunted by the past.
Willa has never fully recovered from the sudden death of her husband, Ben. She became an absent mother to her young son, Jamie, unable to comfort him while reeling from her own grief.
Now, years after Ben’s death, Willa finally decides to return to the beach house where he passed. It’s time to move on and put the Ocean City, Maryland house on the market.
When Willa arrives, the house is in worse shape than she could have imagined, and the memories of her time with Ben are overwhelming. They met at this house and she sees him around every corner. Literally. Ben’s ghost keeps reappearing, trying to start conversations with Willa. And she can’t help talking back.
To protect her sanity, Willa enlists Jamie, her best friend Kristin, and Kristin’s daughter Kelsey to join her for one last summer at the beach. As they explore their old haunts, buried feelings come to the surface, Jamie and Kelsey rekindle their childhood friendship, and Willa searches for the chance to finally say goodbye to her husband and to reconnect with her son.
Every Time You Go Away is a heartfelt, emotional story about healing a tragic loss, letting go, and coming together as a family.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
BETH HARBISON is The New York Times bestselling author of One Less Problem Without You, If I Could Turn Back Time, Driving with the Top Down, Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger; When In Doubt, Add Butter; Always Something There To Remind Me; Thin, Rich, Pretty; Hope In A Jar; Secrets of a Shoe Addict; andShoe Addicts Anonymous. She grew up in Potomac, Maryland, outside Washington, DC, and now shares her time between that suburb, New York City, and a quiet home on the eastern shore.
Read an Excerpt
I can tell you exactly when I lost my will to live.
It was three years ago. The day I found out my husband, Ben, who I'd contentedly believed was happily working on our beach house in Ocean City, Maryland, and getting ready to come home at the end of a long weekend, had actually died quietly in his sleep there.
That was when I, Willa Bennett, effectively ceased to be. That's when the Willa who could laugh easily and speak her mind confidently went quiet. That's when the Willa who enjoyed a largely anxiety-free life could no longer drape over the end of the sofa and have a conversation, and began, instead, to be a tight bundle of nerves. That's when the Willa who could accept an unanswered phone as less than alarming became the kind of person who freaked out instantly if her son didn't answer a call or text. It had already happened a few times, when Ben didn't respond because he was driving, or he'd forgotten to charge his phone, or he was busy with power tools, and I'd jumped to the conclusion each time that he was actually lying dead, alone and unattended for perhaps a whole day. Sunrise and sunset, and sunrise again.
Three years ago. That's when the Willa who believed in happily-ever-after and joy grew lonely, afraid, and hollow. That's when she lost all hope, and even a slew of medications and meditations couldn't bring her back.
That's when I became Dead Willa.
Dead Willa, who, three years after the fact — tired of knowing that damnable house was still sitting there, untouched, since Ben had died — decided it was finally time to get rid of the place. The house had become an empty tomb, a sad monument to what had once been, what had happened, and what would never be again.
I finally decided that I had to be present for my now-seventeen-year-old son before I blinked again and he was twenty-one, and so on right through all the lyrics of "Cat's in the Cradle." I had become an incomplete person the moment he lost his father, when he needed me most. It was time — well past time, actually — for me to pull myself up by the bootstraps and join life again.
The only way to do that was to face the house. To move in for the summer — easily done, as I am an English teacher at a private high school in Potomac and had the summer off — fix it up, and get the place sold.
Did I mention that the old Willa didn't believe in ghosts? Much as she might have wanted to, she just couldn't bring herself to buy in. Ghosts and spirits and psychics and tarot cards — it was all nonsense to her.
But she believes now.CHAPTER 2
The boy was running along the beach, kite trailing behind him high in the air like one of the signs tugged along by a biplane later in the summer. It was as if he were the only person in the world. And he practically was, truth be told. There didn't seem to be anyone else here besides me, him, and my old golden retriever mix, Dolly, and she was busy sniffing the new environment and undoubtedly trying to find stinky new things to roll in and make herself repulsive.
We might have been the only living creatures in the world, even though it was late May in a beach town and the throngs were about to descend. But it was a cool, gray day with the kind of wind in which, my husband used to say, it "takes two men to hold one man's hair on." Anyone who had already come for vacation had probably decided to stay in and play board games or go to the movies, the boardwalk, or the nearby outlet center, which boasted junky beach food galore and no sales tax. That center probably attracted as many people as the ocean did.
The waves crashed on the shore over and over, a slow meter in the background, like in the song "Bridge over Troubled Water." It was soothing. It was alive. It held life, I reminded myself. I was determined to be Zen during this sabbatical. So, while the ocean looked a cold battleship gray on this overcast cool day, I took a deep yoga breath in and told myself it was full of life, from the dolphins leaping along the surface to the unknown prehistoric creatures that still lived at the very bottom.
I tried to picture Finding Dory but the full-color vision eluded me. It takes a lot of imagination to see fireworks in this particular variety of gray. The words, though, the words stayed with me.
Just keep swimming.
Ben and I had had what felt like a million nights here together, but it had always been our tradition to come straight to the shore to say hello to the ocean before we went into the house, and I held fast to our old tradition out of pure habit.
I had a feeling there would be a lot of that.
The answer was a gray crash and a spray of phosphorescent foam.
We'd met here, in this tourist haven, twenty years ago. Senior week at the beach. We didn't go to the same school — he was already in college — but he was a friend of a friend of a friend, and as soon as we'd laid eyes on each other, it was the same old tired story of love at first sight. Only, in our case it was true. Or I think it was true. It certainly turned into love. The best love I'd ever known.
At the time I'd been the kind of beach blonde with wavy curls that they showed on the Sun-In bottle, and, while I didn't feel any conceit about my looks or believe I was any great beauty, I loved the feel of the wind in my hair and the way I knew it looked. Now it was shorter, above my shoulders, and best described as dirty blond, though a merciful stylist might have seen some hope for highlights and shaping. I just hadn't bothered for years.
But once ... once I had felt like a real beach girl here. I'd met Ben with all the confidence I could muster.
My group of friends were renting the house I now owned. It wasn't such a nice place back then — the floor saw a lot of pizza, spilled beer, and vomit. Usually, in that order. And, with a landlord who evidently didn't mind renting to a hundred raging underage alcoholics as long as they could pony up the deposit, I could only imagine it had seen a lot of that treatment over the summers before and after our time here, until Ben and I had finally seen it was up for sale and had bought it in what seemed like the coup of the century.
It was a money pit. But a beautiful one. Sandblasted white siding, old-fashioned shutters that actually closed, but probably wouldn't protect from a hurricane, and a tall, thin Victorian shape that would have made it the perfect candidate for a Titanic-era beach movie.
In fact, before we started renovating, we were literally offered two thousand dollars to let a small production company shoot a horror movie there (not quite Titanic), but we figured two thousand wouldn't be enough to scrub the fake blood off the walls and floors afterward, or to scrub the gory images of the movie from our minds when we were enjoying some peaceful time at our second home.
"Besides," Ben liked to say, "it's already haunted."
"You think so, huh?"
"Sure," he said easily. "Ghosts have more substance in the damp air." He said this with great authority, like he was Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters or something. "That's why England has so many hauntings. It's an island."
"I thought it was because it had hundreds more years of organized civilization. They've been telling ghost stories there since they were wearing loincloths."
He shrugged and smiled. Ran his hand through his dark, wavy hair the way he always did when he was trying to emphasize a point that he knew wasn't very strong. "Moist air."
I laughed. "Ugh, stop, you know I hate that word!"
"Moist," he said again, then came toward me like a menacing creature from one of the very stories we were talking about. "Moist, moist, moist —"
"Stop!" I put my hands to his chest, and he laughed and wrapped his arms around me. And suddenly everything from the ghosts to the dreaded word dissolved, and there was nothing in the world to worry about.
Bit by bit we'd worked on the house until finally the whole thing was done and pristine and beautiful. The floor was new, the walls were new, the fixtures were new, the appliances were new ... Honestly, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what remained of the original place except it was still basically the same shape and in the same location.
We thought we'd have it forever, that it would be a place to bring our children and, someday, our grandchildren. Ben used to talk about all the little tchotchkes he picked up at yard sales and in our travels, and how the grandchildren would remember them all their lives. "The old ship's light at Granddad's," or "the glass Pinocchio figure at Grandma's," and so on. God knows he collected a lot of funny old weird things, but I never protested. They were dust collectors, but they gave him such a kick I didn't have the heart to point out that what he was spending on them could probably have put a pool out back.
We didn't know then that Ben had a rare heart condition that was going to take him down at just thirty-six, suddenly and without mercy.
Death can be so swift, can't it? I know a slow death is agony for the sick patient. I know the old "he never knew what happened" is a great blessing to the dead, but for those left behind, the sudden death is the worst kind of torture. You grieve over and over again because it breeds so many futile, circular thoughts.
No, I'd find myself thinking. Ben was annoyingly trim no matter what he ate. Every ounce he lost, I'd find. If I ate a Big Mac it seemed like he lost a pound and ran an extra quarter mile. He was incredibly healthy, there's no way he just dropped dead.
Or, I have a message from him right here on my phone from this morning. This isn't possible. I can listen to the message right now, I can hear his voice, he's got to be here still!
The impulse to call and the certainty that he'd answer were tremendous. And, just like that, I'd have myself convinced, for just a fraction of a moment, that it hadn't happened. It couldn't have, it didn't make sense, so it hadn't.
But of course it had. And, as dumb as it is, that realization, even after just an instant of rationalizing why it couldn't be, brought it all back like a surprise. A shock. There were times, even months later — hell, even years later — that I sincerely had to stop and ask myself if he was really gone or if it had just been a bad dream.
I'm sure there's an element of genuine madness to that, but so many of us endure it that I guess it's a socially acceptable form.
But this wasn't all about me. Agonizing as it was, the loss was arguably worse for someone else. See, when he'd gone, he'd not only left me behind, but our son, Jamie, who was only fourteen at the time. Fourteen. And even that birthday was only a few weeks old. This boy who had, to that point, grown up so loved and nurtured by two parents, who had admired his father so much, was suddenly thrust into a world of grief. He'd wanted to be like his father and we thought he had a lifetime to learn. He still could, of course, but the lessons from Ben had ended before the biggest challenges of manhood had come along.
We had been a happy family. The happy, ideal little family with the nice house, the dog, the financial security — we were the Cleavers, the Petries, the Flintstones without the rocks. We even had the beach house with a nice story behind it. Our little haven held memories I'd never forget.
So it had been hard for me to even consider coming back until now. I just couldn't face it. This had been our place, our home, in many ways even more than the one in Potomac, where we lived most of the year. They'd taken Ben out of here to Baltimore — and I'd driven the endless hour to identify him. That was the end of the beach house for years. The neighbors closed it up for me, kept half an eye on it, and I just paid the bills as they came in. I never wanted to come back.
Which was probably another reason I was standing out here on the beach watching a boy fly a kite, instead of going inside and getting down to the business of getting the house sold.
Then I'd never come back.
Ben had been getting it ready for our summer. Shaking out the dust and making sure everything was working before we descended on it with friends and relatives and plans for parties. He'd come alone for the weekend because I was just too lazy to face the hard labor after a week of exams.
I beat myself up about the place for a long time after that. What if he'd overexerted himself and that was why he'd died? The doctors said no, but what did they really know? I knew that when Ben got working, he worked like a horse, and here he'd been at our vacation home, fixing it up for me. It was a luxury. "The beach house." It sounded so ... unnecessary. Wouldn't he still be alive if he hadn't come here?
That was another one of those games my mind played with me, but still I couldn't help but wonder. I'd wonder anything if the wondering could make me feel like it was possible it hadn't happened.
My grandfather would have asked, Why can't you just stay at a motel like everyone else? And, indeed, many of the motels where he would have stayed in his youth were still there. It was hard to argue that the Starlight Venture smells like urine and looks like prison when he remembered the glory days when the little neon lights out front worked and the rooms inside were the height of luxury because they looked out over the ocean (well, half of them; the other half looked over the bay) and smelled of thick fresh salt air.
It must have been nice then.
It was still nice, in many ways. Ben and I had loved it.
And once Jamie had been born (to my then twenty-year-old self), he had loved the beach too. For a while. Weirdly, once he reached teenagehood, he was less interested in coming. And obviously, once his father had died here, any thoughts he might have had of coming here for fun had disappeared like smoke in the air. He didn't even want to come help me work on the place to be finally rid of it. Instead of joining me, he'd opted to stay home. Which meant he wanted to play video games, loaf off, and hang out with his crummy girlfriend.
So I was on my own. In so many ways.
The life insurance payment was safely invested, leaving my salary to dwindle as it always had, quickly, and leaving very little at the end of the month, particularly with a child, and with the hefty mortgage payment on a vacation house I didn't need and which we never came to visit anymore.
I returned my attention to the beach. The beautiful beach. A place of peace and sunshine even when it's overcast, at least in my mind.
In seven and out fourteen ...
The boy looked over his shoulder and his eyes met mine for a moment. It sent a jolt of shock through me, partly because he looked familiar suddenly. I realized it was because he looked a bit like Jamie had a few years ago. Like Jamie, the boy's coloring was like Ben's — wavy dark glossy hair, icy pale blue eyes. Central casting would have him filed under Cute Kid. Active, carefree.
Unexpected tears filled my eyes. I envied him at that moment, that lone kid. For my son and for myself. He looked so peaceful, so focused on his one task. No painful thoughts, apparently; all he wanted was to fly that kite until, presumably, he had some other childlike thing to do. He looked to be about seven, maybe eight. It would be years before he had the troubled thoughts of adulthood.
He turned sharply, kicking a spray of sand up behind him. That got Dolly's attention. She looked up, eyed him for a moment, then took off running toward him, kicking sand up behind her.
"Dolly!" She ignored me. "Dolly!" She reached the boy without even glancing back at me, and he looked down at her for a moment. She seemed to delight in his attention and ran by his side, looking up at him with that big loopy dog smile, trying to jump on him but unable to catch a moving target.
He didn't seem to mind, so I stopped calling her and just watched them run together, thinking how nice it would be to travel back in time to when Jamie was that age.
Had I failed him irreversibly? I wondered. Had my devastation at Ben's death put me into such a selfish tailspin that I hadn't been there for my little boy's needs upon his own father's death? I wanted to tell myself no. I wanted to believe that my efforts to be cheerful, even when they seemed superhuman, had made a difference to Jamie, but all I could think of was the old chestnut everyone said. Kids know. And they do. They know when you're lying, when you're faking, when you're not interested, when you're drunk, when you've been crying. I'd committed all of those crimes at various times in my grief, and even though I'd tried to smile through every one of them, I'd failed him. Of course I had.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Every Time You Go Away"
Copyright © 2018 Beth Harbison.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Everyone has their superstitions about angels and visits from beyond. This book allows the reader to experience another opportunity with Ben visiting Willa at their beach house. It was welcoming to see Willa grow to be the mother her son needed and to allow herself to move on with her life - stop holding back from experiencing her life. A definite beach read!
When I saw the setting of this book was Ocean City, Maryland, I just knew I had to read it! Growing up in Maryland, this was our annual summer beach vacation spot. It was an emotional story with the husband of the main character passing away. They had a beach house in O.C. and for years she couldn't bring herself to go there or take her son. When she finally does, the author added some supernatural to the story which I loved. Reading this book brought back so many wonderful memories of the boardwalk. Her writing was so descriptive, I could smell Thrashers Fries, hear the waves, shop for salt water taffy, and be a child once again with my parents that I miss so much. It was both a heart warming and heart wrenching story at times. Definitely an excellent book that I thoroughly enjoyed! * I was provided an ARC to read from the publisher and NetGalley. It was my decision to read and review this book.
I really liked the premise of this novel, but somehow it just didn't work for me. The solutions were too easy, and didn't feel real. I was disappointed because I really had high hopes for this story. It wasn't badly written, it just wasn't something I ever was able to connect with.
It's like Ghost with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore!! I'm in love! A wonderful, weepy, romantic, love story. Definitely a tear jerker. I really enjoyed this.
Thank you to NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for an ARC copy of this book. This was a very emotional book. Good from start to the very tearful ending. It pulled at my heartstrings so many times. The struggles of letting go and raising a teen all by yourself when you lose your spouse so unexpectedly. That is what happened to Willa and her son Jamie. Together they will be ok but first Willa has to learn to let go of Ben. After years of grieving she goes to sell their vacation home. It was where they first met and fell in love. His ghost is there and only she can see him. He is able to come back to help her move on. Of course she does not want him to go away again but he can’t stay. This book has every emotion you can think of. Love, loss, laughter, tears, friendship, motherhood, childhood, saying goodbye. It’s a very emotional book and you will need plenty of Kleenex at some points. It’s well worth the read and will keep you turning the pages. I loved it. Another 5 star book for me.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for allowing me to read and review this book. This is the first book I have read by this author, but it definitely won’t be the last. When I started the book I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. The whole concept seemed a little “out there” to me. After reading just a few chapters I was hooked. Willa is not dealing well with the sudden death of her husband, Ben. She cannot cope with her grief, much less be a parent to her 14 year old son, Jamie. When, after three years of living in a grief-filled fog, she decides that it is time to sell the beach front home where the family has spent many happy days celebrating summer with friends. She goes to the beach home alone because Jamie just can’t face going to the place where his father died. Upon arrival, she finds that the home has fallen into disrepair and it will take a lot of work to get it ready to sell. As she begins repairs and cleanup, Willa is deluged with memories of her beloved Ben. The images of Ben seem to be real enough to touch. Is her imagination getting the best of her? Every Time You Go Away brings out all the emotions. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes women’s fiction.
I don't remember ever hearing of Beth Harbison, but I liked the description of this story on NetGalley. It's part love story part ghost story, which makes for a pretty cool story too. Most of the book is relayed from Willa Bennett's prospective, a woman who is still grieving the passing of her husband, Ben, three years earlier from a heart attack. Because Ben passed at the Ocean City, Maryland family beach house while alone, Willa hasn't been able to bring herself to go there since he died. Willa is finally ready to let go and sell the beach house. As soon as she arrives, Willa feels something a little weird. Her dog doesn't even want to go inside, but she figures both her feelings and the dog's are just nerves. She meets with a realtor and starts tackling needed repairs. She even convinces her teenage son, Jamie to come give her a hand. Willa feels like she sees Ben everywhere in the house - and not figuratively either - she literally sees him but realizes she's the only one who does. This story shares how a family is brought back together after the loss of a family member and learning how to live again and to move on. It was an emotional read that was very touching. The beach setting was also beautiful and I really enjoyed the story - definitely something a little different than the rest. I received an advanced readers digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to provide a positive review and this affected neither my opinion of the book, nor the content of my review!! Thank you NetGalley!
This new novel Every Time You Go Away, by Beth Harbison, takes the reader through the roller coaster ride that is the grief following the loss of a spouse. What about the kids who’ve lost a parent? If one parent is gone, and the other is absorbed in grief, who takes care of the kid? Harbison examines the gamut of emotions and difficulties experienced by both, and shows how they can come out on the other side of grief with the family intact. It has been four years since Ben died, and Willa still has not recovered from losing the love of her life. She finally faces the reality of the need to sell their beach house. The house where they went as teenagers, bought, then took their own kids. Her son, Jamie, is suffering, too, and has allowed himself to be caught up in a toxic high school relationship with an emotionally needy girl. He does know from his parents what a good marriage looks like, and he finally extricates himself. Together, mother and son begin to rebuild their relationship. As Willa works to make the house presentable for sale, Ben keeps appearing to her – then going away. Ironically, it’s Ben who helps her not only to see her neglect of Jamie, but to accept that she still has work to do in this world, and he is waiting for her on the other side of the veil. I love a happy ending, and Every Time You Go Away has one. I give this story five stars. What Makes This Book Reviewer Grumpy? • Spelling “god” without a capital “G”; • Using “Try and”, rather than “try to”; • Beginning sentences with conjunctions; • Split infinitives; • Misplacement of the word “only” within sentences.
Beautiful I won a copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways, I was not required to give a favorable review. This is a beautiful story about overcoming loss an moving past it. When Willa loses her husband at their beach house while he was getting it ready for summer she doesn't go back to do anything for almost years. When she decides to go back she is going to sell it. But little did she know that Ben would visit to help her grieve and get past his death, but also have her friend, and their children come to understanding that she needs to live again. I loved it. I recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a great summer read.
Willa has been widowed for 3 long years and now she is going to their beach house to clean it out and sell it. What she never expected was the ghost of her husband to be there, trying to convince her to move on with her life. This book was so good. The characters were all ones I wanted to root for, and the storyline was fresh and captivating. This is the perfect beach read!
The ARC I read was definitely different from the final released book. Perhaps the editor thought the story needed more and perhaps that was a solid assessment. The story I read was anything but hilarious – it was filled with pervasive grief. It touched every page of the book and I was relieved that the book was only about 230 pages and finished in one sitting. The story was not unique, a woman loses her husband and soul mate, she is so mired in her grief she neglects her only child who is struggling with the same loss. She tries to come to terms with her new “normal” while wrestling with her heartbreak and depression. The apparition of her husband at their beach house as she is preparing it for sale, augments her inability to move forward. Without this device the story would be insubstantial, with it the story is predictable. The dialog, emotions and understanding ascribed to her seventeen-year-old son is so mature that it felt as if the child was the parent. I thought the underlying story of the teenagers moving forward to be the book’s salvation. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC.
3.5 stars Every Time You Go Away is my first book by Beth Harbison and was an interesting first read. It follows Willa as she goes back to her beach house to prepare it to sell. What she doesn’t plan on is encountering her deceased husband’s ghost while she’s getting the house ready to sell. Ben, the deceased husband, has been given leave to visit Willa and help her move on. Between this and her best friend Kristen, she finally begins to heal and she works on the house. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a spouse, especially so you and with a teenage son to raise. However, I did have a hard time with the fact that after 3 yrs Willa still hasn’t dealt with his death. Her son Jamie has also had to go through high school without a male figure, but seems to be managing okay as he deals with normal teenage angst. The book was good, but just didn’t resonate highly with me. This ARC was provided by NetGalley, which has no influence on my review.
I can tell you exactly when I lost my will to live. A great start to Every time you go away by Beth Harbison. Enjoyed the storyline the only complaint I had was I wanted more at the end. But the writing and dialogue was great. Hope there will be a sequel in the future. Look forward to reading more by author.
Willa’s husband died three years ago. It seems that she has just been going through the motions since, not being able to be the person she was and mother to her teenage son, Jamie. She now goes to the beach house that she hasn’t been to since Ben’s death with the intention of selling the house. The house needs work and she is flooded by memories of Ben. She starts to hear Ben’s voice and finally is able to see him. As she works on the house, she is joined by her best friend, Kristen, Kristin’s daughter Kelsey and her son Jamie. All of them reflect upon their current situation and their memories of happy times at the beach. Willa and Jamie both need to heal from their loss and make decisions about their futures. I found this a beautiful story.
Every Time You Go Away Beth Harbison Beth Harbison’s latest, Every Time You Go Away is a love story and a modern day ghost story complete with a haunted house and a friendly spirit, a bit atypical for her usual light women’s fiction but its also very personal and that emotion is evident in every heartrending page. It’s about a family fractured by death, a mother and son who’re struggling to go on living without the man who meant the world to them. The dual POVs Willa’s 1st person and Jamie’s 3rd is the perfect way to tell this tale. Its not all dark but also filled with light, hope and full of this author’s iconic humor and wit that will bring both tears and laughter from her entranced audience. The conversational dialogue and vivid narrative bring to life the seaside backdrops and the wonderful soundtrack, plus the characters all rock especially Willa, Jamie and the ghost, but it’s the comforting outlook on the afterlife and how the haunting by her late husband helps Willa’s healing albeit she’s kicking and screaming the whole way that are the real stand outs. Harbison’s fans plus fans of the genre will devour this in one sitting and I personally hold her responsible for having “Every Time You Go Away by Paul Young on a non-stop loop in my head! SUMMARY: In the three years since the untimely and totally unexpected death of her husband Ben, Willa Bennett stopped living too. Oh she gets up every morning and teaches English during the school year, buys groceries etc… but that’s only existing. She should have been being a good mother to their then fourteen-year-old son Jamie who, hello lost his father and then his mother too. Well enough it enough, it’s time for a fresh start and first thing on the agenda is going to their beloved Ocean City MD beach house, the place where Ben died in his sleep. Clean it up, clear it out and sell it. But then she starts getting haunted by her dead husband, or maybe she’s just finally lost it completely. Meanwhile back home in Potomac Virginia Jamie now seventeen has his own drama-filled life to deal with. Unlike other kids he’s mostly left alone by his mom and it’s his slightly psycho girlfriend who hovers, a girlfriend he’s finally had enough of but trying to dump her is proving to be a bit on the difficult side. As far as his mom goes, he knows she was hit hard when his dad died, they were devoted to each other and as a kid he felt like they had the perfect family, but he kind of lost her too and he’s not sure if he wants her back or if it’s too late to try. What he does know is that he does NOT want to go to the beach house and help her pack up a place that holds so many good memories for him.
Poignant, touching, and sweet! Every Time You Go Away is a tender, moving novel that takes you on a journey into the life of Willa Bennett as she learns how to cope with unexpectedly losing the love of her life, enduring the heartache involved in acknowledging and accepting the loss, surviving the grief, healing as a family, and learning to live again. The prose is heartfelt and immersive. The characters are lonely, scarred, and endearing. And the story is an absorbing tale about life, loss, love, grief, familial drama, friendship, relationship dynamics, courage, parenthood, moving on, happiness, and first loves all interwoven with a thread of the paranormal. Every Time You Go Away is another uplifting, beautiful tale by Harbison that reminds us that love is powerful and everlasting, and that life is precious and should always be lived to the fullest.
This book follows widow, Willa, and her son, Jamie, as they go through the grief process after her husband, Ben has unexpectedly died. Years after his death, Willa decides to go back to the beach house they own and ready it to sell. She goes through many emotions as she relives the memories of life with Ben here. She also knows that she has lost the close relationship she desires with her son. I didn’t appreciate the language used in this book, nor “ghostly” references, and therefore chose not to complete the book. Due to that, I could not recommend it to others. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for my honest review.
I was very happy that I chose to read Every Time You Go Away while at the beach since it proved to be just the sort of escape that I was looking for; Beth Harbison has written a sweet and touching yet not overly heavy read (until the last few pages that had me sobbing!) with her newest novel that is just perfect! Willa Bennett, a young schoolteacher, lost the love of her life three years ago when her husband Ben suddenly died from a rare and unknown heart condition at the young age of 36 while alone at their family beach home in Ocean City, Maryland. They'd been a couple since they were teenage sweethearts and had a young son together, Jamie who is now 17 years old. Since Ben's death, Willa has been buried in her grief and completely unable to move on. In that time she's also not given Jamie the type of support that he's needed to get past the death of his father. She's been wallowing in her despair and both she and Jamie have suffered because of it. Yet, Willa finally decides that it's time to move on, so she takes the first step by deciding to sell the beach house where Ben died. She hasn't been there since Ben's death, so she heads there with her dog along for the ride to fix the place up but when she gets there, she sees Ben everywhere. And it's not just memories of Ben that keep flashing across her mind although being there brings back many memories of their being together...Willa literally sees Ben. His ghost. While she thinks she's losing her mind, she isn't. He's there to not only let her hear from him again how much he loves her and always will, but to tell her that she has to move on and even find a new love. While not everyone might not care for a book that has a ghost as a character, I personally loved Ben and thought his and Willa's relationship was just wonderful. It was sweet and touching if anything. Also, Harbison really captured the emotions of the characters in the book in such a real way and a wonderful job writing about moving on after being struck a tragic blow. Even though the book is not a heavy read, when there are moments that Willa is grief-stricken while either talking to Ben about how much she wants him to come back to them or her friend Kristin about Ben, you can just feel the depths of her emotions. As I said the ending left me sobbing, so it is a bit emotional! But I'm also a huge crier when I read too! Every Time You Go Away is tender, beautifully written, has moments of humor, is full of friendship and love, and will tug at your heartstrings. Harbison has deftly shown in her new novel how sorrow and grief can be turned to hope for a new tomorrow. This is one book that I highly recommend you add to your summer TBR! **Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for my fair and honest review.**
A powerful story about moving on after losing the love of your life. It’s been three years since Willa Bennett’s husband, Ben, passed away in their beach house in Ocean City. Willa hasn’t been back since then. When she finally decides to sell the house, she heads there to prepare it for the sale. When Willa arrives, she finds more than just memories. Ben’s ghost is there too. But he’s not there haunting the house. He has returned to help Willa move on. He doesn’t want her grieving for him anymore. He wants her to find love again. He also wants to help mend her relationship with their son, Jamie. While Willa thinks she is going crazy at first, she starts to look forward to Ben’s visits. Then, Willa’s friend Kristen arrives to help Willa and soon Kristen’s daughter, Kelsey, and Jamie are there. The four of them spend the summer making new memories as they prep the house for sale. But in the end, will they be able to say goodbye to the beach house that has created so many great memories? Even though this book deals with death and is very emotional, it really was an enjoyable story. I had a hard time finding a spot to end each night. The only problem I had with the book was I wanted more closure in the end. I would have loved to have seen Willa find someone new and see if Jamie and Kelsey’s friendship turned to romance. The descriptions of the beach and surrounding area took on a whole new character of the book too. It was easy to visualize the scenes. I would recommend this book to all of my friends and family. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review.
This was a refreshing story about second chances, friendship, reconnecting, living life, and healing after tragedy. Definitely recommend this one for a weekend when you can put your feet up and escape for a little while. **Received this ARC for review from the publisher via NetGalley**
Story of a widow who is having a problem overcoming the death of her husband. Ben who died 3 years ago in their vacation home while he was redoing the house. Willa is there getting the house in shape to sell but something is not right. She can feel Ben, she can see him and he is talking to her. Is she going crazy or is this real?. When Jaime, her teenage son comes to help with the repairs., Willa realizes that she hasn't been there as a mother since Bens death. Painting the house and spending time with Jaime helps repair the relationship between Mother and Son. It's a story of life. I cried thru parts of it but it was a good cry. The story is full of hope and love. It was a lovely story. I received this book from Net Galley for an honest review.
I am going to start this review out on a complaint. If you go on Goodreads, you will notice that there is a different blurb for the book. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the NetGalley page feature the one I used for the synopsis. I got confused about what I was reading because the blurbs were different. I went through a small “WTH” moment when I realized that. I came to emailing the publisher to clear up the confusion. I didn’t after reading several reviews that pointed out the same thing. At that point, I decided to use Amazon’s blurb because it matched with what I read on NetGalley’s page. I do not like being confused. And over something as simple as a blurb. Not that is out of my system, let’s get to how I feel about the book. I liked Every Time You Go Away, even if it made me feel sad for about 90% of the book. I liked that the author shows that love transcends death. I liked that I was able to see Willa heal while fixing up the beach house. I liked that Ben was able to help with Willa’s healing. I liked that Jamie ended up being a normal teenager, once he got away from his possessive ex-girlfriend. This is a book that you need to read with a box of tissues nearby because you are going to cry. Trust me on this one. There were parts of the book that I didn’t like. I didn’t like Roxie. She brought nothing to the book except stress for Jamie. She was a manipulator. Oddly, I didn’t like the real estate agent. She grated on my nerves. I know it was her job but she could have shown a little more tact and understanding to Willa’s situation. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. I thought Willa was a hot mess at the beginning of the book. She took no pleasure out of her life after Ben died. She existed. She shut herself from everyone, including her son. Her anxiety was out of control. I thought I was bad with having my kids check in. She so much worse. But I understood why she was like that. To have someone died so suddenly was traumatic. I loved seeing her gradual healing throughout this book. Being at the beach house was what she needed, even if it brought back memories of her and Ben. I liked the paranormal turn that the book took. While I thought that the book would have been fine as it, having Ben helping Willa get over him made the book even better. I did get some vibes from Ghost during the scenes when they interacted. Mainly the end of the book. I liked the sub-storyline with Jamie and Kelsey. It was cute and mirrored Ben and Willa’s. I do wish that the author gave some closure to that storyline. I would have loved to see if they ended up together. Like I mentioned above, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. I didn’t feel satisfied with it. I wanted more. I wanted to know what was going to happen to everyone. The book just ended. I get driven nuts by that.
This is a wonderful, highly emotional story of one woman and her teenage son's journey as they work to overcome a great loss and find a way to live again. The story is very well done and the writing is excellent. Willa and her son are great characters. Both are having a hard time moving on but eventually the find themselves enjoying life once again. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys women's lit.
This is just the book that makes you believe that those who have moved on to the next world, can stop in to peek on us. It is a reminder that our loved one are around us. When Ben suddenly dies, Willa has no idea how to live. She returns to the beach house to clean and sell it and Ben is there. Even Dolly the family dog feels it! "I never thought about how to live. But he'd come to tell me." A novel of love, hope, resilience, tears and laughter. I loved it!
Willa’s husband Ben died unexpectedly leaving her to raise their fourteen year old son Jamie. Now, three years later, they are back at their beach house with the intention of getting it ready to sell. Willa is unprepared for seeing Ben again but there he is – or at least a version of him is there and he has a reason for appearing. Willa and Jamie have been stuck since his death and he wants to encourage Willa toward her new future. She has to grapple with all the emotions you’d imagine. This is a bittersweet novel that made me think about how I’d handle things if I were in Willa’s position. I found her reactions and feelings believable. I felt so sad for Jamie and then cheered him on as he began to move through his grief. With the help of their long-time friends Kristin and her daughter Kelsey, the future seems less daunting for Willa and Jamie. There are moments of such sadness balanced by lighter, more humorous scenes making it an emotional reading experience for me. I’m glad I had the chance to read it. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for sending a review galley.