*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Heavens
Author: Sandra Newman
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
New York, late summer, 2000. A young man, Ben, meets a young woman, Kate–and they begin to fall in love. From their first meeting, Ben knows Kate is unworldly and fanciful, so at first he isn’t that concerned when she tells him about the recurring dream she’s had since childhood. In the dream, she’s transported to the past, where she lives a second life as Emilia, the mistress of a nobleman in Elizabethan England. But for Kate, the dream becomes increasingly real and compelling until it threatens to overwhelm her life. As she tries to make sense of what’s happening, Ben worries the woman he’s fallen in love with is losing her grip on reality.
The Heavens is a reality-bending tale that turns the boundary between dream and waking life on its head. Newman has weaved a fantastical story where even the reader starts to question what’s real and what’s not. Kate’s reality changes with every visit to the dream world, her grasp on her true life slipping chapter after chapter. Those around her begin to lose faith in her sanity, as Kate herself begins to question everything she’s ever known. Tragic in it’s exploration of mental illness and the concept of sanity, this story is full of a terrible, but incredible fascinating magic–blurred as to what is true, and what is simply a dream.
I struggled a lot with the character of Ben. He’s plagued with his own demons throughout. Often insecure and angry, but perhaps our source of truth, we don’t know if we can trust his perspective in any way. If Kate’s reality is the true reality, then Ben is the one who never knows when change has occurred and will never know how Kate’s actions have irrevocably altered the state of their life. If Ben’s reality is true, then Kate’s dreams and realities are nothing more than a symptom of mental illness. The reader can trust no one, only experience the story, disoriented and told from two very different perspectives.
I was absolutely enthralled by this story, the time-travel, the romance, and the total questioning of reality. I walked away not knowing what was truth, but it all had this incredibly devastating and magical quality to it. I rooted so strongly for Kate throughout and was entranced by her experience. Combining historical and literary fiction with speculative elements, it’s certainly a fresh read. Ben’s behaviour throughout was my biggest hangup, and I wouldn’t call the cover eye-catching, but overall, I walked away having really enjoyed this story.