I received an ARC of this book via Avon Books (Harper Collins U.K.) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Disclaimer: This book contains loss, grief and mention of suicide
Two strangers. Two chance meetings. One extraordinary love story…
Nell and Charlie feel a spark when they meet by chance in a cafe. But they don’t trade numbers, or surnames, so there’s no way they’ll meet again.
But the next day, Nell’s phone rings at work. Somehow, impossibly, Charlie is on the other end. And he needs her help.
Nell is about to save a life, fall in love … and risk everything for a perfect stranger.
At First Sight was another one of those cases where I judged the book based on the cover. I thought it’d be a beautiful, fluffy love story but – as I read on – I realised there was more to it than that.
I haven’t read Sunderland’s previous novel, Very Nearly Normal, so I had no idea that I should be expecting a love story with a twist..though that’s what I got.
At First Sight follows Nell, whose job is offering over-the-phone help and guidance at a counselling hotline. Though she helps people for a living, and is pretty good at doing it, Nell has her own problems: her mother is distant, she has her own anxieties around flying and she just can’t shake her ex-boyfriend, Joel. Yet, when she meets Charlie – a handsome Irish stranger at a coffee shop – she feels something. Something she hasn’t felt in a while, a feeling she can’t shake.
Though the desire to talk to everyone and anyone isn’t relatable for me, Nell felt familiar. I couldn’t help but relate to her inability to eat without making a mess and there were moments in the book when I found myself chuckling, though I did find the initial meet-cute a little cringey.
I wrongly assumed this would be a sweet romance, as the cover and branding suggest this will be the case. This story had a lot more substance than expected, as it delves into grief, loss, anxiety and all kinds of mental health issues. Sunderland writes about this honestly, sensitively and with heart and humour. I really appreciated the fact that Sunderland addressed how grief, mental illness and “recovery” from these stages is not a straight line, there are good days and there are bad days.
As holidays feel a long way away, I was grateful for Sunderland’s ability to move the narrative from Birmingham to Ireland (and beyond), as I think we can all agree escapism is much needed.
My only problem with this one was the ending. It wasn’t a bad ending, of course, but I wished it wasn’t so open. Saying that, this could mean Sunderland might revisit these characters and this story and I, for one, wouldn’t mind if she did.
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