Book Review: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
“More than anything, I know that you just have to choose to make the best of things. You get one life, and it only goes forward. And there really are all kinds of happy endings.”
How to Walk Away was my BOTM pick for May, and I had really high hopes for it, especially because Taylor Jenkins Reid (who I love) wrote the blurb. It sounded like it would be right up my alley, a romance novel where the protagonist survives a plane crash and is torn between her old life with her perfect fiancé or her new life spending time with her physical therapist. While I liked it, there were a few things that I was not a fan of. Margaret’s boyfriend Chip insists on taking her up in a Cessna plane to celebrate Valentine’s Day and her new job. Margaret is deathly afraid of flying, but Chip, who almost-but-not-quite has his pilot’s license, convinces her to come along for a ride. On this plane ride, Chip proposes and on their way back to the airport to land and celebrate the engagement, they encounter a storm with rain and heavy crosswinds, which causes the plane to roll and crash into a ditch. Chip walks away unscathed, but Margaret is wedged up under the seat and dash. When firefighters rescue her and take her to the hospital, she realizes something major is wrong when she is whisked straight into surgery for a spinal cord injury.
When Margaret wakes up, her parents hover and immediately start taking care of her. But Chip is nowhere to be seen, and when he finally does show up, he is plastered and spills the beans that Margaret is paralyzed. This was the first time I paused in How to Walk Away. First of all, Chip is truly the world’s worst boyfriend/fiancé. He pressured her into going on that plane, and granted, while no one expects to get into a plane crash, he did not have his pilot’s license and was apparently not supposed to fly it. Chip was very sneaky about them being in the hangar. Then once he sees Margaret for the first time, days after she’s been in the hospital, he is drunk and hasn’t showered. I get that he feels guilty, but man up! The woman that you love is in the hospital and you can't be bothered to be there; seriously, he is the worst. On top of that, he is the first one to tell her that she is paralyzed. Her parents could have told her, or one of the many healthcare professionals that have been monitoring her care. I will give a pass to Margaret for not putting pieces together sooner because she suffered an incredible trauma and is still in a state of shock about her situation. Chip is for sure not winning boyfriend of the year, but at the same time, he is the only one to tell Margaret what is actually happening, though he could have softened the blow a little bit.
During Margaret’s stay at the hospital, she begins physical therapy with Ian, a serious Scottish therapist who doesn’t believe in encouraging words. Margaret has always talked to anyone and everyone and is not comfortable with silence, but Ian refuses to give into her ramblings and just focuses on the physical therapy. However, as Margaret’s estranged sister Kitty returns home and Chip drops out of the picture, Margaret starts to bond with Ian and even develops a bit of a crush on him. I mean with a Scottish accent, who can blame Margaret? But because he is her physical therapist, Ian is reluctant to show any favoritism to her; however, there are some moments where they blur the ethical line between patient and medical professional. I know some people had a hard time with that part of the story, but I can suspend my disbelief for the sake of fiction. Plus, I really liked Ian; he was grumpy, but clearly cared for Margaret and had amazing, out-of-the-box ideas for better physical therapy treatments.
As much as I liked Ian and Margaret as characters, I could not stand Margaret’s mother, Linda. Towards the end of the book, she grows on the reader, but mother of pearl, she was truly awful right after Margaret’s accident (Chip still reigns as the worst). There is a whole subplot involving Kitty and their mother, which served to underscore Linda’s selfishness. I don’t need completely likable characters; in fact, sometimes I prefer to have someone to root against, but in this case, Linda really bothered me. She steamrolled and belittled Margaret and continually made cringe-worthy comments. While Linda was definitely not my favorite, I really enjoyed Margaret's relationship with Kitty. Due to their estrangement, the first few days were awkward between the two, but I loved seeing Kitty try and take care of Margaret and encourage her in the way she needed encouragement.
How to Walk Away reminded me somewhat of Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid with the patient/medical professional relationship. I absolutely adored Maybe in Another Life, but I think that was more about the structure than anything. While I had some bones to pick about How to Walk Away, I did enjoy it. If you are looking for a good summer read, I definitely recommend it. Unless you are flying. Then I would wait until you're not going to fly anytime soon. I give it 3 stars.
What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?