“Her tears and my soul, they live parallel lives.”

It has been said that in order to grow as a person, you need to have experienced pain. Debilitating pain. Heart-wrenching pain. Pain from which the weak succumb to, and only the strong survive. Pain that changes your life. In Colleen Hoover’s latest novel, November 9, she explores the idea of life-altering pain and the affects that it can have on a person.

The day that Ben sat down at Fallon’s table, subsequently walking into her life, she had no idea of the connection that they shared, or of the impact that he was about to have on her. Fallon was still in the thick of grieving for her old life, the one that had been destroyed two years ago to the day, when she was severely burned in a house fire. Fallon is a complicated person, but then again, so is Ben. They both live in the past but in very different ways. Fallon holds a lot of blame towards the person that she feels is responsible for the fire. She also has a lot of self-pity. She has made the fire into her identity instead of it being a tragedy that she was able to overcome. Because it was a tragedy. Fallon didn’t physically die that night, but the person that she had been did, and she has been struggling to get herself back ever since. When she meets Ben, she is able to open up to him and trust him because he is the first one to look beyond her scars and actually see the person beneath. I felt her devastation when she learns that Ben was the person who started the fire, but also her compassion when she learns of what he went through with his mother’s suicide.

Ben has never been able to forgive himself for starting that fire; it’s something that he has held with him and constantly beats himself up about. He lives in his guilt and heartbreak over the injuries that he caused Fallon. Which makes complete sense that when he starts to write, all that he can come up with is the story of that night. With Fallon in his life, Ben is able to finally see beyond the fire. He is able to help her regain the confidence that she lost and start his own healing process.

Both Fallon and Ben are flawed, and neither of them knows how to deal with their emotions, which is why they constantly hurt each other. At the end of the novel, I found myself wondering if I could have been able to forgive Ben, if I would have been strong enough to let the anger go. At the same time, would I have run out on Ben and not given him the chance to explain himself? I don’t know how I would react, and I think that is one of the larger points of the story: how much of your reactions are based on instinct and survival versus how much you can actually control, and how to distinguish between the two. Ben didn’t think about his actions when he set fire to the car. It was only after the fact, when the fire quickly became out of control that he realized the impact of what he had just done. I feel like Ben was always going to forgive Fallon in the end, because deep down, even though he had finally started to heal, I don’t think he will ever completely forgive himself. Some things you can never truly let go of.

In the end, Hoover shows that you can still move on with your life even if you can’t forget the pain or the cause of it. Some pain stays with you…but that doesn’t mean that you have to stop living.

Colleen Hoover's November 9
Colleen Hoover’s November 9. Atria Books.
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