In her spellbinding literary debut, Clayton delivers a heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting tale of second chances and the messy emotions that often accompany them, all complicated by the tragic reality of opioid addiction. After she is widowed, Marren Halleck decides to challenge herself by training for a mountain climb in Tanzania to summit Kilimanjaro. When she meets Chris, a handsome Texan, Marren feels a spark of chemistry—but she’s torn. Will moving on from her late husband and longtime love Brody Halleck, whose addiction to opioid painkillers eventually led to his death, be possible or wise? And although Marren doesn’t realize it, Chris is hiding an important part of his life from her, one that might doom any chance of a lasting relationship between them.
Clayton sensitively handles the delicate topic of prescription drug addiction, showing how naturally dependence can begin as she depicts baseball player Brody’s career-ending injury. She demonstrates with persuasive power how the slide into opioid addiction can happen in an instant, and makes readers see that between black and white there are infinite shades of gray, especially when an addictive prescription substance prescribed can lead a patient to behavior that once would be impossible to believe. Somewhere Above It All is frank and clear-eyed about grief and domestic abuse without ever feeling exploitative.
Clayton’s active writing style ably engages readers from the very first page, and her talent for pacing and story structure provide sound underpinning to the series of surprises revealed just before the novel’s conclusion, twists that readers likely won’t see coming. Evocative prose (“I look up at the night sky. It’s a dark chalkboard speckled with tiny flecks of white chalk, a deep black abyss heavily populated with stars”) enchants, not just making the Kilimanjaro adventure gorgeous but also enriching character and storytelling. Romance readers will ugly cry throughout this spectacular and emotional tale–a testament to the author’s skill.
Takeaway: Lovers of real-world romances will tear up at this heartbreaking yet uplifting love story facing grief and addiction.
Great for fans of: Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Forever, Interrupted, Erich Segal’s Love Story.
Production grades Cover: A- Design and typography: A Illustrations: N/A Editing: A Marketing copy: A
A novel of new beginnings and second chances by debut author Clayton.
Marren Halleck married her childhood sweetheart, Brody, a sweet, athletic, talented, and handsome man, beloved by all in his small Arkansas town. He’s on his way to a lucrative professional baseball career when a serious injury sidelines him and puts him on a path of opioid addiction, which not only destroys his marriage, but later ends Brody’s life. Crushed by grief and desperate to feel whole and in control, Marren trains for the biggest challenge of her life: to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. After arriving in Tanzania alone, she forms bonds with the members of her climbing group, including an intriguing, mysterious solo climber named Chris Courtland, to whom she grows particularly close. Marren believes that he may be the key to helping her move beyond her grief. However, when her past pain meets her present-day reality, she must find the personal strength to move forward. In a tale that makes frequent use of flashbacks, Clayton successfully takes the reader on an engaging journey—not only through grief, but on a tour of climbing Kilimanjaro, complete with sights, sounds, and sensations. Each person in the climbing group has a distinct personality, which adds flavor to the story. Although the portrayal of the relationship between Marren and Brody feels a bit rushed, the strength of their bond still comes through, allowing the reader to feel the weight of the protagonist’s loss. The story’s themes are rather familiar, and its references to the opioid crisis can have the feel of a public service announcement. Nonetheless, readers will enjoy the story’s characterizations and relatable premise.
An emotional and highly readable tale of love, loss, and self-discovery.