ARC provided by Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.
Is it bad etiquette to start a review with a quote by another author? Because while reading this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about Tarryn Fisher’s quote in one of my favorite books of all-time, Mud Vein, “What’s the difference?” I asked him. “Between the love of your life, and your soulmate?” “One is a choice, and one is not.” And I know I haven’t been on this Earth for that long, but that quote is the one of the truest things I’ve ever read in literature. And it really encompasses the theme of The Simple Wild. And sometimes, when you’re lucky enough, and are able to do everything in your power, you are able to have them both.
Let me also start this review off by saying that I feel like this book was very catered to my personal tastes, and I’ll go into that more in the review, but The Simple Wild is currently my favorite romance of 2018. The writing, the setting, the messages, the romance? It was all perfect in my eyes. This was also my first KA Tucker book, but I promise that it won’t be my last.
“What hold does Alaska have on them? What makes this place worth giving everything else up?”
The Simple Wild centers around a twenty-six-year-old named Calla, who has lived twenty-four years in Toronto with her mother. And both Calla and her mother, Susan, have spent most of those years wishing that the man they left in a very remote part of Alaska would come back for them. Calla’s father took over his father’s aviation business, that delivers supplies, food, and medical treatment all over the native towns around this rural part of Alaska. But they’ve both moved on; Susan married an amazing new man, Simon, and Calla just gave up the hope that her father would ever be more than distant heartache. That is, until a woman calls Calla and urges her to finally meet her father, after all these years, before it’s too late and she is never given the chance again. Calla, with the help and support of a few amazing people, decides to fly out and stay for a while in the remote village in Alaska that her father has always chosen over her and her mother.
“I’d always ask him to fly out to visit me. I mean, he had all these planes to choose from, so why couldn’t he just hop in one of them and come?”
KA Tucker says that Bangor is a made-up place in Alaska, but oh my gosh did I fall in love with this fictional community. And Calla gets to meet the people who have been her father’s family for his entire life. And I’ll never make excuses for a parent not wanting to be a bigger part of their child’s life, but I actually felt so much empathy for Calla’s dad, Wren, too. After twenty-four year, he has never given up the love he has for Susan. And even though Calla’s romance is the focus of this book, Wren’s really got to me. Like, this book is easily the book that made me cry the most in 2018. Without question. Happy tears, sad tears, I never want this book to end tears.
And you all know this is a romance book, so obviously Wren had to take a hot, thirty-one-year-old, pilot under his wing. And Calla and him start out with such an enemies to lovers plotline as soon as he picks her up to fly her to her father. And he obviously lives next-door to her father. And their paths are forced to cross constantly throughout Calla’s visit while she gets to finally know her father. And you all, I was weak for it. Also, this has the “trapped in the cabin in the woods” trope and I was screaming with heart eyes.
“Just don’t make the same mistake I did and fall in love with one of those pilots.”
Good Lord, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Jonah is honestly the type of guy that I personally like and am attracted to. And I feel kind of gross saying it, because he’s very much a “manly man” but not in a toxic masculine way, but in a “let me chop wood and put it on the fire we have going so I can cook for you” type way. I don’t know. I’m such a hot mess over this book. But I’m just saying that I’ve read 110 books this year, and Jonah is the only fictional dude character that I would personally let get it. Goodbye.
But there is so much to love about Calla, too! Not only does she have empathy, and the courage to let a man who she has felt abandoned by her entire life in, but she’s also sure of herself and her worth. Also, she and her best friend run a lifestyle blog, and I loved every mention of it. From adding hyperlinks last minute, to finding deals every holiday season, to trying your hardest to take the perfect picture for Instagram. Like, it was all so relatable and it truly was the cherry on this already amazing sundae. And I feel like in general, I personally just had a lot of similarities to Calla. Also, just because I’m apparently an open book in this review, my dad is the same age as Wren. So, all the extra feels.
And the overall message of this book is so important and so beautiful. We have to let people live the life that they want to live. We don’t have to agree, but we can always be supportive and try to be empathetic. I try not to talk about my personal life too much, but a lot of you know that cancer is something that I’ve chosen to center my life around, and it’s so important to let the person that is diagnosed choose what is best for them. And, this book is just so heartbreakingly beautiful. Because that’s really all life is; choice after choice after choice. And each and every single one completely alters our life’s path. But controlling our feelings is something entirely different. And the connections we choose to make, too early or too late, is everything.
“You should have called him. He should have called you. Your mom should never have left. Wren should have left Alaska for you. Who the hell knows what’s right, and what it would have led to, but it doesn’t matter because you can’t change any of that.”
This book also shines a spotlight on found families and platonic love, too. This book really is just all about the different kinds of love in the world, really. The love between family, between friends, and between communities. I feel so sappy, but this book just really blew me and my expectations away.
And even though this book was close to perfect in my eyes, it did have two elements that I didn’t enjoy. The first being just the general talk about beauty and what it means to be society’s standard of beauty. Calla gets a lot of shit from Jonah about the way she looks, and that’s something that has happened to me my entire life. And I get it from both sides of the spectrum: From dudes quizzing me with basic biology 101 questions because they can’t believe the degree I have, to my ex giving me shit because I can’t just roll out of bed and feel comfortable going places around town with them. We want girls to look a certain way, but we also want to make them feel bad for putting the time into looking that way. I don’t know. I’m getting so off topic but basically, I’m saying people have treated me the way Jonah treated Calla’s beauty in this book, and I don’t like it. And good Lord, did I hate the nickname “Barbie” so much. But I was living for Jonah constantly being proven wrong on his assumptions and prejudices. Girls are beautiful with no makeup or with a full face of makeup, one doesn’t erase the other. The only thing that matters is what the girl feels comfortable with, and what makes them happy. Also, make up can be really expensive, so show some damn respect.
My only other complaint is Calla’s mother, Susan, and her treatment of Simon. Susan does a lot of hurtful things in this book. And Simon is like the best character in all of literature, so it feels extra bad. Like, who paints someone’s bookshelves when they aren’t home? Like, I don’t know. I really liked Wren, but I honestly disliked Susan, which I feel like will be an unpopular opinion, but it’s honestly how I felt. Also, Simon deserves the entire galaxy and all the stars within it!
Overall, I just loved this. The setting was absolutely perfect and so very atmospheric. I loved the romance more than any word combination I could come up with. I loved the message of living your life to the fullest, and the theme of found families always being better than family of origin. I just loved The Simple Wild and I believe with my whole heart that it will make my best of 2018 list come this December. And again, this book felt very personal to me, but I recommend it to everyone with my entire soul. And, friends, don’t waste your life on wishes; if you want something – go for it, always. Life is short, but it’s never too late to go after your dreams and fight for something you love. Love can be so messy and so complicated, but it’s always worth it.
Trigger and content warnings for abandonment, terminal disease, talk of cancer, some weird comments about body and weight that made me a little uncomfortable, and loss of a loved one.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.