Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review of Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia


Read from November 28 to December 11, 2011

I have shelved this as rewritten fanfiction. I read the original fic online when it was Edward and Bella, and Jasper and Alice, and Emmett and Rosalie.

I loved it back then.

When the author pulled it, I felt as if I had lost someone near and dear to my heart.

When she announced that it was being reworked to be published, I waited patiently until that day came.

And then I read it again.

I love it now.

This is essentially the same story, with a
lot of editing and tightening up and giving new names to the characters, but the parts that captured my heart back then are all still within.

At its heart, it's a love story between a homeless man and a strong, brave woman, a love story between a man lost in his delusion and invisible to the world and the woman who
sees him.

At its soul, it is way more than that. It's about friendship, redemption, loyalty, trust, family (be it blood-related or not) and, above all, the saving grace of love.

Love never fails. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians tells us that, and I loved how the author used that well-known tidbit from the bible in her story. It may sound cliched to someone who hasn't read this story, but it feels to me as if the author took that letter from Paul, transferred it into modern times and wrote her story around it.

Upon first opening the book, we are introduced to Livia McHugh, a college student who rides the train every morning from Poughkeepsie to the big city to attend her studies in psychology. She has a long-time boyfriend, and a smile for everyone who's waiting with her at the station, including the young, homeless man that everyone ignores and who lingers in the shadows by the station's platform.

Blake Hartt watches Livia from afar and counts her smiles every day, knowing that he'll never be with a girl like her since he has nothing to offer. He's too proud to accept charity and too broken from the mistreatment by his late mother to find his way out of homelessness into a 'normal' life. It is enough for him to know that Livia truly
sees him - and he is rewarded with her smile every morning, and every night when she returns home.

Then one morning, a group of teenage boys accosts Blake with taunts and threats of violence. Livia is compelled to step between them, and getting them to leave Blake alone. He in turn is shocked but grateful that this young woman would come to his defense, and thus begins a friendship and then a love story that will make you laugh and cry and hug these characters to your chest, just to keep them safe. And at the end of the book, when you've followed their story all the way to its culmination, you feel as if you've been part of something amazing.

Blake Hartt is a very interesting character. He was abused and mistreated by his alcoholic mother and entered the foster care system at age 12 due to an incident that leaves him feeling guilty and thinking that his skin is made of glass and would repel anyone who'd see him in the sun. After he aged out of the system, he has no place to go. He lives in the shadows until Livia's love gives him the strength to move into the sunlight and become the man he was always meant to be. He has impeccable manners, keeps himself clean with the help of his foster brother Cole's shower, but refuses to accept anything he deems unearned, including food and shelter. You cannot help but fall in love with this man and his quiet, proud and thoughtful demeanor.

We meet Cole and Beckett along the way, who lived in the same foster home as Blake, and upon aging out of the system, they remain brothers and do what they can to help each other. The way they go about it is as different as night and day.

Beckett becomes a criminal, doing all the wrongs things for all the right reasons, all out of love for his brothers. Cole seeks the grace of God and is working as an assistant in a small, local church.

We meet Kyle, Livia's younger sister, who took their mother's leaving them and turned it against herself, believing that she wasn't enough, that she isn't worth anything if her own mother can't love her. She is promiscuous, loud and can cuss up a storm.

We meet Eve, who has lost her fiance and her baby due to a drive-by shooting and the resulting car accident. Eve is fueled by a need for revenge against the man who ordered the shooting until she is face-to-face with him and finds that she can't kill him.

We meet John McHugh, father to Livia and Kyle, a cop, who loves his girls and only wants what's best for them.

We meet a slew of minor characters, including Dr. Ted Hartt (yes, he shares a last name with Blake though I'll leave you to read to find out why) and Mouse aka Jimmy who serves as Beckett's bodyguard and whose role in this book is pivotal to the outcome.

There are trials, misunderstandings, tribulations and setbacks, false starts and triumphs, there are moments when you want to reach into the book and shake a character into common sense, there are moments when your fist will form in your pocket because you want to hit someone who deserves it, there are moments when you fear and hold your breath, and there are moments when you cry and smile at the same time.

Debra Anastasia takes you on a wild ride, have no doubt about it.

A couple of things that might be construed as criticism:

- the past tense of speed is sped. Not speeded. The proofreader in me cringed at that.
- the cursing. It's excessive when it comes to Beckett and a little innovative when it comes to Kyle. There were a few things that she uttered that sounded...weird, for lack of a better term. I don't know anyone who talks like that, but that's just me. Kyle's curses are something else.

I particularly commend the author for really editing this story, really taking out the parts that weren't needed and thus tightening the narration and the story overall.

Other than that, I must congratulate Ms. Anastasia for delivering a book that will stay with me for a long time, and one that I will re-read again and again. It's full of her own personal quirks, infused with laughter and tears, humor and seriousness, and above all overflows with the strength of pure love.

I am honored and privileged to have been a part of this journey with you.

You can find the author on her Goodreads Page


  1. Amazing review. I commented on your Goodreads page as well. Following your blog now to see more reviews from you. I thought I wrote good reviews, I definitely step back and tip my hat to you. :))

  2. I loved this story when I first read it as FF as well, but now I look more forward to reading this again with the changes.

    For a P2P piece though, I almost wish she had split this up into three books. I find it sometimes a bit overwhelming having to follow other couples in the side story along with concentrating on the main couple. I don't mind supporting characters but don't want to delve into more of their lives than necessary, KWIM?

    Also a few other changes may have been nice. Three couples, no mother, cop father, skin he thinks is glass and sparkles? It just rings too many bells. All that aside, it was an amazing story then, and I'm sure it's even better now. At least on the emotional level.

  3. Great review, I absolutely loved this book. It's my favorite of 2011. I think it's unique and that's a word I don't use lightly. I was not expecting Blake's revelation at all, I really didnt't know what to expect. My heart broke for him when he finally told his story. I love flawed characters and each of the characters in Poughkeepie hit that mark for me.


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