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If I Had Said: a novel

If I Had Said: a novel
"Nyssa Lakin," he stammered, "will you marry me?"

Nyssa Lakin is twenty years old when her boyfriend, Reese, proposes marriage, and she finds herself unable to give him an immediate answer. She loves him, but at this stage in her life, with so many unanswered questions still ahead, is she really ready for marriage?

"How I regretted that I was unable to throw my arms around Reese's neck and cry out that age-old refrain from every romantic movie I'd ever watched as a child...I would always stare at the screen, and want to shout at them, 'But how can you know for sure?'"

Nyssa’s choice will determine the direction of her life. In concurrent storylines, If I Had Said examines how Nyssa’s future plays out in the aftermath of this significant decision. One narrative follows the next ten years in the life of Nyssa Nowles, who said yes to Reese’s proposal; the other, the life of Nyssa Lakin, who said no. Through hardship, joy, and sorrow, as well as occasional misgivings about whether she did the right thing, each version of Nyssa works hard to overcome the challenges of the journey that follows her decision.

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About the Book

This was one of the most intriguing books I’ve read in a while. The whole “what if” scenario is the premise of the entire book, and I was drawn into every single word, thought, and emotion Nyssa had. I became invested in each of the main characters at various points of the story, rooting for them in one scene and them admonishing them in the next. It was truly an emotional roller coaster and I was amazed at how deftly the author wove similar characters and events into each parallel life, bringing to light that we are destined to have certain people in our lives no matter which path we choose. They simply play different parts in different paths.

There was trepidation and anxiety from the beginning as Nyssa pondered Reese’s proposal, just as I’m sure many brides do:

Bright blue eyes with careful outlines of dark brown eyeliner stared back at me. They were the eyes of a bride. Were they the eyes of a wife?

I loved how the author worked in Nyssa being a writer in one of her parallel lives, and one of my favorite lines in the entire book was one I’m sure many writers can relate to:

As much as I wanted to share it with the world, it still felt like a private thing. It was almost as though I were growing another baby, but I didn’t want to tell everyone in case something went wrong and I ended up with nothing.

Occasionally the house would be a complete pigsty by the time Reese got home, with no dinner in sight, and not even onions and garlic simmering on the stove. He would find me on the couch tapping away at the keys, the girls mesmerized by some cartoon I barely remembered switching on for them.

There was the marital strife that many couples face, when one partner withdraws and puts up a wall:

He lies with his back to me, like this strong flannel-covered wall that I can’t climb over. I feel as thought if I could only scale that wall, my husband would be waiting on the other side, overjoyed to see me and loving me enough for both of us, like he always was.

The author was so imaginative, especially with the proposal between Lavinia and Zach (with the book). That was so beautiful!

And my final favorite line from this book was a quote that I felt summed up the entire story and ending:

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.

There was a bit of repetition in this story, but I think it was necessary to keep readers on track when flipping between the “saying yes” and “saying no” scenarios in each chapter. I’ve never read a book structured like this, and I enjoyed every minute of it. This author is an immensely talented wordsmith and I look forward to reading more works by her.

“If only you had known then what you know now.”

Yes, if only…what might have been…

Who hasn’t had that piercing thought in the middle of the night? In this lyrical book, the author examines a woman’s life in a way that we can’t do ourselves in real life. She gives us two stories, both told by the same woman, Nyssa.

The book begins with the scene of a romantic, and dramatic, marriage proposal by a young man, Reese to Nyssa. Should she say “Yes” or “No” to him? What follows is an amazing look at both scenarios. In each chapter, Nyssa tells us what would have happened in each year following the proposal if she had said, yes or no. Thus, there are two stories about Nyssa in this book.

The set-up of the story fascinated me and I must applaud the author for being able to write such a unique story. At first I wondered if I would be confused, but the author took care to keep each storyline distinct and equally mesmerizing.

In looking at a life so closely, we see the importance of writing and acknowledging feelings, the strength gained from having friends, and the need to stay honest and true to oneself. The power of love is main theme of this book.

This would be a great book to discuss with others because I would love to talk about Nyssa’s choices and how each of her lives played out. Nyssa felt strongly that there was a determining moment in life, a touchtone that would affect everything that followed. I am probably not so black and white; most choices aren’t a simple yes or no when the whole situation is really considered. To me, most choices can be modified or changed along the way. Or at least our thoughts about our actions can evolve. Again, all meaty ideas to discuss!

This is a beautifully told story that will draw readers in with its poetic phrasing and thoughts. We are told that the name “Nyssa” means “new beginnings”. I highly recommend this book and I believe it might start a new beginning in a reader’s own life. This is the second book I have read by this author and her lovely writing is a joy.

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