Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Swear on This Life
Author: Renee Carlino
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date:
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

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Can you imagine starting a book and quickly coming to the realization that every word in the story is about you and the traumatic childhood you endured. How would you feel? Especially as you have done everything in your power to switch off the memories and emotions your past brings out in you. Emiline is a wonderful character, she is very easy to empathise with; sharing her reliving painful events was both traumatic and cathartic in equal measure as well as bringing confusing emotions to the surface regarding her current situation. Emiline is coming face to face with all her unresolved issues that have been subconsciously creating barriers to her pursuing the future she really wants.

Swear on This Life is an ingenious piece of writing capturing a story within a story, the past told from the perspective of the imaginary novel while the present is Emiline’s current life and her struggle with the emotions the novel brings out in her as well as the reappearance of her first love, Jason.

Both past and present show the deep bond formed between Jason and Emi; theirs is a bond formed via pain, loss, tragedy and hardship. The narrative shows the way in which life and upbringing shapes our identity as well as the unfairness of youth where you don’t have control over your own life, hopes and dreams.

Even though Emi and Jason were divided by circumstance, the years could not diminish their connection on a soul-deep level. The narrative shows how quickly time can slip away from us like grains of sand in an hour glass. If given the opportunity to fulfill our dreams would we choose to settle for less than we deserve. Emi has to face the truth of her current situation and gain the courage to pursue her own happiness if she wants a brighter future.

I loved how the narrative showed the level of connection between Emi and Jason with the fictional story providing Emi insight into Jason’s thoughts/emotions/actions, she has never been as understood by anyone else in her life. Both stories provide a strange sense of clarity to the relationship between Emi and Jason. True love eliminates all the obstacles in its path ?

Swear on This Life has an intensity to it that is hard to articulate, while the story may not be about you directly, the connection to the characters ensures the words affect you on a personal level. Swear on this Life is a most wonderful tear producing love story ?

Renee Carlino’s writing sucks you in heart and soul; the words have a way of embedding themselves into the deepest part of you never to let go.