I like books with happy endings—the kind where there is a wedding or a baby or even just a second date. I want the likable characters to get what they most desire and the unlikeable ones to end up dead or in jail, or at the very least regretting all their life choices. I don’t mind the occasional tear to balance the joy, but I want the main characters to be unicorn-and-rainbow happy on the last page. In other words, I’m a sucker for an HEA—Happily Ever After.
And then I read COME AWAY WITH ME by Karma Brown and all my preconceived notions of what I thought I wanted evaporated. Her debut novel’s main characters travel around the world in an effort to deal with devastating losses. For a happy-ending addict like me, COME AWAY WITH ME didn’t start on a promising note. The main character, Tegan Lawson, is in a horrific car accident and she loses her baby. The first line has become one of my favorites, “Even now, the smell of peppermint still makes me cry.”
The gorgeous cover hints at the amazing travels inside, from Thailand to Italy to Hawaii. Brown describes each setting with such lush detail that you’re transported there. You’re learning to make fresh tomato sauce in Italy, riding an elephant in Thailand, and surfing the waves in Hawaii—and your mouth is even watering over the delicious banana bread.
Throughout, the novel explores Tegan’s anger with her husband, whom she blames for the car accident and the grief over her loss. It finishes with an ending that had me sobbing in the best possible way.
At no point is there a wedding or a chubby baby or even a second date, but it does end with a character who found a way through her grief, accepted her loss, and chose to move forward by finally travelling the world as she had always wanted. Is she laughing or smiling? No, but she’s hopeful, and as a reader, I was deliciously satisfied. My definition of a happy ending has since evolved to include hope and growth—an HEA, Hopeful Ever After.