Ellen Sussman Sent on assignment to Bali, Jamie, an adventure guide, imagines spending weeks exploring the island’s lush jungles and pristine white sand beaches. But it ends as something very different – a year on, she can still feel the heat and noise of the nightclub bombings.
Haunted by memories, Jamie returns to Bali seeking a sense of closure. Checking into a cosy guest house, Jamie meets a kindly owner who is coping with a painful past of his own, and a young boy who becomes crucial to her search.
She hasn’t been able to forget Gabe, the man who saved her from the attacks – or the spark between them as he helped her heal. There’s a chance she might find him where she left him. A small chance. But even if she does, what then?
Jamie is a likable, adventurous girl who works as a tour guide for people who want thrill seeker holidays. She had an opportunity to check out Bali for her company and is there when the tragic Bali bombs strike. Her world is turned upside down, literally and metaphorically and a year later she is back to try and get her head straight about everything that happened. We first meet Jamie making the plane journey back to Bali, a mixture of nerves, fears and memories. As she lands in Bali and makes her way to the paradise Guest House where she is to stay we get to experience the warmth, colour, smells and sounds of beautiful Bali. I was instantly transported to that place where you can walk out the door and forget about the grey skies of England. As Jamie starts trying to cope with being back in a place that has such mixed memories that idyllic setting is in contrast to the turmoil she is dealing with.
As we learn about Jamie’s back story apart from the bombings and also meet other characters who have had a difficult time in this supposed paradise the story takes on more depth. Nyoman who owns the Paradise Guest House turns out to have lost his wife in the bombings. Bambang is an orphaned boy she meets trying to make money on the streets to stay alive. They show Jamie different things about the island and its people that she didn’t have chance to experience before. Nyoman has faced his loss in a completely different way. Nyoman takes Jamie to some of the events to commemorate the bombings.
In the middle of the book Ellen takes us back to show what happened to Jamie that dreadful night as she deals with loss, tries to help others and meets Gabe who looks after her as she recovers from the injuries she sustains. They form a close bond, something a bit scary for both of them as they each have issues with loss and relationships as well as coping with the trauma of the bombings. But this relationship becomes pivotal to both of them and they try to leave the past behind them and move on. As you can tell from the blurb they don’t get it together at this time and Jamie comes back to Bali wanting to try and find Gabe and see if he will forgive for leaving and if they have anything left to rescue. I enjoyed the romantic element to the story but for me the most interesting part was learning about Bali, its customs and people and how they have coped with such a big tragedy. Verdict:This story was fascinating, there are a great variety of characters and it is gripping subject matter, a good read. Reviewed by Helen