"This book is dedicated to: Anyone and everyone who has ever been misunderstood, cast out, or ostracized for simply being who you are. Forgive the ignorant. They know not what lies within the layers of our reality."
This book.....THIS BOOK.
Every once in a while I read a book that renders me speechless and affects me on such a profound and elemental level that is hard for me to put into words. In The Absence of Light
by Adrienne Wilder fits into this category. This is one of those books that is beyond words or accurate descriptions. It moved me. I truly felt every emotion. I hurt. I got angry. I grieved. I laughed. I felt joy. And, I fell in love.
The story is set in the quiet and peaceful town of Durstand. A place where meddling inhabitants, outdoor theatres for cows, dilapidated homes and concertos of colorful light all around you seem to be a part of the everyday norm. This is a portrayal of how one man who is biding his time is given a reason to stay where he is and lay down some roots. He learns to look beyond the obvious and begins to see with his heart rather than his eyes.
Thirty-eight year old Grant Kessler has recently moved to the small town of Durstand with a long-term plan. Having recently retired from a questionably legal shipping business, a choice of employment that put Grant on the FBI’s radar, he has decided to lay low for a few years before he is able to slip away and live the coastal life of leisure that he has always wanted. It does not take long for Grant’s world to go in a direction he never saw coming. However, his lethal past has followed him to this sleepy town and is now threatening all that Grant is learning he can’t live without.
When Grant first encounters twenty-four year old Morgan Kade, he does what most people do when meeting someone with an obvious disability or impairment – he makes unfounded assumptions essentially marginalizing Morgan, not understanding all that he is capable of. Morgan is a fairly high functioning young man on the autism spectrum. With an astounding resilience and fortitude, he has fought hard his whole life and now lives a fully independent and self-sufficient life. He’s wickedly funny, brilliant, misunderstood and is often trapped by things beyond his control. He lives in a world where he is judged by his uncontrollable stimms (tics), his lack of eye contact and social awkwardness. Most can’t see past his behaviours that don’t necessarily fit into societal norms. He does not want to be pitied though. Morgan lives his life how he sees fit and definitely knows how to stand his ground showing people that he may be someone who has autism, but it does not define him.
Morgan is not shy when it comes to his interest in the newest resident of Durstand; however, Grant is not so quick to give into his attraction afraid of what others would think if he were to show his interest in the beautifully odd man. He, like many others, questioned Morgan’s capability to even decide that he was gay.
“Morgan is gay, he’s not disabled.”
“Who decided that?”
Was he kidding? Someone like Morgan wouldn’t even know what sex was let alone sexuality.
It does not take long for Morgan to show Grant just how truly special he is with his quick wit and amazing mind. Grant may be the older of the two but Morgan is the one that becomes the teacher, never afraid to call Grant on his misguided preconceptions. Grant tries so hard to stop what is brewing between him and Morgan, but how could he stop the fall when the world that was slowly engulfing him was so beautiful and bright? Morgan shows Grant the importance of the “absence of light”; how in the darkness we can truly see what is in one’s soul. By removing the light you have to focus on what’s real and purposeful, rather than worrying about insignificant imperfections or actions that make you stand out. It was in those quiet moments, in the darkness, that Grant was able to see just how beautifully unique of a man Morgan is.
“There will never be anyone like you, Morgan.”
He closed his eyes for a moment.
“Never, not in a million years or a million lifetimes, will there be anyone else who has what I want.”
“Love is easy.” He traced my eyebrow with his thumb. “Trust is what’s hard. Broken hearts can be fixed. Broken trust?” His touch followed a tear down my cheek to my lips. “Trust doesn’t heal.”
“I can give you what I have, but I can never give you everything.” It wasn’t Morgan didn’t want to, he couldn’t. I could see that too. He could never give me all of himself because he didn’t control everything he had.”
“Because you’re perfect and for some reason you find me worthy of your perfection. Because you’re a gift and I will not let you forget that.”
The romance between Morgan and Grant is what makes this book shine in my opinion. It is not often that I read a book where the romance developing between the two main characters is so beautifully raw and transparent. Grant may have made many dubious decisions as he built his empire and made his fortune; however, he became a different man with Morgan. He was willing to give up everything and risk it all just to have Morgan become a permanent fixture in his life. He most definitely made mistakes along the way and did have moments where Morgan’s autism was something he could not ignore. But, Morgan was never afraid to point out when Grant was being an ass. What Grant and Morgan gave to each other was unlike anything else they had experienced. Truly a moving, tender-hearted love story.
I mentioned earlier that this book affected me on a more personal level. I am the mother of a seven year old boy who has autism. He is one of the lights in my life that shines brightly and our family would not be complete without him. So, with this being said, I understood how simple it was for Grant to fall for Morgan. To become so enraptured. Why you may ask? I understand what a gift it is to be allowed into the world of someone like Morgan and my son. It is pure, unadulterated joy, innocence and love.
That is what you get. The level of trust that it takes for someone like Morgan to allow you into his world is no small thing. Grant realized this and knew that what was he was receiving from Morgan was nothing short of perfection.
All in all, In The Absence of Light
is an incredibly powerful book that made my heart bleed as I tried to take in all that I was experiencing while reading. Ms. Wilder’s lyrical style of writing grabbed a hold of me right from the start and I feel that the beautiful romance she penned was balanced perfectly with the suspenseful FBI sub-plot. Most individuals on the autism spectrum are still very much a marginalized group of people as many fail to see beyond their quirky ways and peculiar behaviours. I do think that this author did a wonderful job showcasing the fact that someone with a disability or a “disorder” such as autism is so much more than their diagnosis. Adrienne Wilder allowed Morgan to shine and for that I am thankful. This is a book that will stay with me for quite some time, possibly forever. A highly recommended read.*****A review copy of In The Absence of Light
by Adrienne Wilder was generously provided to me in exchange for an honest review.