What Remains by Garrett Leigh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Don’t go,” Jodi says to his partner Rupert in the first line of WHAT REMAINS.
With skillful brevity and immediacy, author Garrett Leigh dives right into the heart of the story-in the prologue, rendering a complete history of their romance, including the everyday stresses and domesticity of their relationship, their dynamic and joyful sex life, and their devotion, intense emotional connection, and caring. Their one and the same, need and want for each other. Their happy ending, which is tragically deterred by a speeding car that left Jodi with a traumatic brain injury he will never fully recover from.
Jodi’s injury results in permanent memory loss of the entire five years of their relationship. In the months while Jodi is hospitalized and Rupert waits for Jodi to wake up, the narration flashes back to Jodi’s lost memories of how these two, lonely, bisexual men found each other, became friends and lovers-from their first dizzying, breathtaking, terrifying kiss, to their growing closeness and physical intimacy, to their first time sleeping contentedly together and their first time having awesome sex-and finally how they became a family.
It’s all the more heartbreaking when Jodi opens his eyes and sees a stranger instead of Rupert, and when Rupert takes Jodi home to a place Jodi doesn’t remember. When Jodi gradually recovers parts of himself, his habits and knowledge, but still can’t recall the love and family he and Rupert once shared. And it tugs at the heartstrings as Jodi and Rupert adjust to their trauma and Jodi’s disability, and as Jodi recognizes Rupert’s love for him, rediscovers his sexuality, and falls in love again.
This novel shows how trauma and lifelong disability realistically affect a relationship and how true love endures and conquers all. It’s also about learning to love yourself and accepting your sexuality. When Jodi and Rupert first met, Rupert was recently divorced and had never been with a man. But being with Jodi made Rupert feel normal. It’s a profound and moving statement.
After all the tragedy and suffering in their lives, it’s a blessing that their relationship was so resilient and their love became even stronger, ever more essential and fulfilling. Though at times Rupert despaired that their relationship was so broken it couldn’t be fixed and Jodi was so frustrated because he couldn’t remember their past, they never gave up on each other, and in the end, reclaimed their love, their dreams, and their future.
WHAT REMAINS is everything I want in a romance-raw, heartfelt and heartbreaking, heroic and tragic, devastating and romantic, and altogether real. It is the kind of romance novel that shows how love itself is sexy and beautiful, and one that I will treasure and remember forever.
*ARC received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.