"We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence." --Joseph Roux
When a close friend is posting subtle Facebook statuses about a big exciting secret, texting you to arrange a time to get together and talk, and dropping innuendos about how her life is about to change, the immediate assumption (at least, for me) is that she’s pregnant. I hadn’t seen Tessa in quite a while, and despite her adamant denials, I had every expectation that Tessa was about to reveal that she had a bun in the oven; in a way, she did…
Substitute “book” for “bun” (or “baby”, I guess) and here we are. I’m pretty sure I just stared at her for a solid 10 minutes after she revealed that she had written a book about Megan—It was 100% not anything I had imagined coming out of her mouth, and it took me a few minutes to recover from the shock. Shock was swiftly replaced by excitement, and before we parted ways for the day, I asked her if I could possibly read it. It was, after all, a book about two of my closest friends (herself being one of them), I am a periodic character in the book myself, AND I was designing the cover… all of which I thought gave ample reason for me to get an early glimpse! Thankfully, Tessa agreed, and about a week later I had my first copy of “Heaven Has No Regrets” in my hands.
A handful of people have since asked me "what's the book about?" and I find myself at a loss for words, despite having read through two early drafts from cover to cover repeatedly. Because it's sort of two books, in a way, that happen to come together into one really powerful story. One one hand, it's a love letter to a childhood best friend, that one person that was always there and helped the writer survive the worst things that growing up had to offer. On the other hand, it's a story of heart wrenching grief, and how struggling through desperate mourning lead the narrator to a realization of love, strength, peace, and life (and love) after death.
"Heaven Has No Regrets" fluctuates between past and present in an obvious but somehow seamless way that keeps the reader engaged from start to finish. The "past" sections detail the lives of two main characters, teenaged cousins and best friends from suburban Pennsylvania, each with their own difficulties and struggles. The reader follows them over a period of a couple of years, through the lowest lows and the hilarious highs that their teenaged years provide, and sees how the bond that they have forged over the course of their lifetime has literally become their lifeline and means for survival.
The "present" sections of the book follow a narrator through the immediate aftermath of horrendous loss. It primarily recounts the narrator's experiences over the course of a handful of days, through the many recognizable stages that follow the death of a loved one-- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance-- but in a tangible and gut-wrenching way that not only takes the reader along for the ride, but turns these very clinical grief stages into a very palpable, coherent journey that anyone having experienced any kind of loss can relate to and draw inspiration from.
Knowing both Tessa AND Megan, the real-life people upon whom the book's main characters are based, I knew that reading this book would stir up a lot of feelings, both happy and sad. I expected to laugh and to cry, but what I did not expect was something that I hope many people will gain through reading this book-- I felt myself, after 11 years, finally begin to let go of my pain and really begin to accept the healing that I had denied myself out of guilt for living a life without her. It's this feeling that I think any reader, even one with no relationship to the writer OR any of the book character's real-life counterparts, will be able to relate to, and to learn from, and will hopefully be able to draw inspiration from to begin their own healing process.
"Heaven Has No Regrets" is currently scheduled for release on Amazon in early October. For more information, updates, and merchandise (including a journal inspired by the book and co-designed by yours truly!), visit HeavenHasNoRegrets.com.