I was given a copy of this book from Onwards and Upwards Publishers. The following review is representative of my honest thoughts about the work and has not been influenced in any way.
When I Lost Me by Claire Lagerwall is a beautifully crafted novel. It follows the lives of two women, cousins, Catherine and Rebecca, both facing their own heartbreaks but who are brought together by hope and faith. Lagerwall’s writing is something to be upheld; thought-provoking, emotive, and real, she impressively keeps the reader engaged through three-dimensional characters and interesting plotlines. The further I read into their stories, the more I felt like I knew both women personally. With Catherine’s painful experience of infertility, you found yourself grieving with her, but also questioning her erratic decisions which only added to her realism. I’d recommend this book to anyone seeking a heartwarming story that has a lot to say about how faith works with suffering.
Put simply, this is a tale of heartbreak and hope. The plotlines are well-structured, fast-paced, and detailed. Perhaps, in some ways, I would have liked more information about the challenge Becs faced (avoiding spoilers) about her family’s past and how that all gets resolved. However, that doesn’t take away from how much I enjoyed it. The story has also got me thinking more about my own writing; after reading it, I’ve been dwelling on the importance of demonstrating how each of my characters would react in the face of a crisis. Do they run? Do they fight? Do they pray? Do they cry for help? Do they stay silent? These are the kind of details that contribute to characters that jump off the page and Lagerwall’s ladies certainly do that.
Reflecting on the work more, I am struck by how amazingly Lagerwall manages to interweave societal and political issues in South Africa with the lives of the characters. Through Becs, Lagerwall shows how the past becomes a lived experience for the generations that follow after. I was completely captivated by Becs’ unwavering faith, that even in moments of extreme anger, frustration, and pain, this character still turned to prayer. There’s a lesson for myself in that, and even if you’re not a praying person, there’s a lesson to always lean into hope, love, and positivity. That even when you feel as if you’ve lost yourself, people you love can uphold you. This was demonstrated massively through the community in Becs’ storyline and the ending image - woah - talk about powerful.
Quite often, as a Christian writer, I can question myself when writing about characters in dire circumstances. Shouldn’t my stories be full of light and fluffiness? However, this book has encouraged me that sometimes we have to write true reflections of reality, and the reality is that there is suffering active and real in our world today. Yet, there’s a greater reality - that even in the midst of all that, light and hope shine brighter than anything else. So, thank you, Claire, from one writer to another.