Review: A World Apart by Mel Gough

Ben Griers is the darling of Corinth Georgia’s Police Department—intelligent, handsome, and hardworking. Thanks to his beautiful wife and clever daughter, Ben’s family is the envy of the town. Yet desperate unhappiness is hiding just below the surface.

When Donnie Saunders, a deadbeat redneck with a temper, is brought to the Corinth PD as a suspect in a hit-and-run, Ben finds himself surprisingly intrigued by the man. He quickly establishes Donnie’s innocence but can’t shake the feeling that Donnie is hiding something. When they unexpectedly encounter each other again at an AA meeting in Atlanta, sparks begin to fly.

With his marriage on the verge of collapse, Ben is grateful for the other man’s affection. But he is soon struggling to help an increasingly vulnerable Donnie, while at the same time having to deal with the upheaval in his own life. Ben eventually realizes that they cannot achieve happiness together unless they confront their darkest secrets.

Content warning: The book is heavy on the hurt/comfort. There are mentions of child abuse, and realistic descriptions of serious medical issues and symptoms.

This is a tough story to review and it took a while to decide on a rating. For the most part I enjoyed this. It was a simple enough plot, with engaging characters, and an interesting storyline.

Ben is a cop and a recovering addict. He is lonely and his wife has asked for a divorce, which has pushed him back to AA meetings. At the first meeting he runs into Donnie, who Ben’s partner tried to charge for a hit and run. Their relationship starts out weary, but Ben is enamoured by Donnie's quiet and reserved nature, and takes opportunities to be in Donnie's vicinity.
I enjoyed both characters. Donnie was interesting to learn about, and there is a lot of stuff going on with him that is slowly revealed.

Some of the content is uncomfortable. There is a stark difference between the life Ben leads, and the circumstances Donnie grew up in. Donnie is poor, and lives with his abusive brother. He is doing his best to make the best life he can, but violence and secrets wreak havoc in his world, and eventually he cannot hide it.

I'd say this story was good. The execution was sound, I just didn't feel like I really got to the meat and bones of Donnie’s and Ben’s relationship, nor Donnie's full character. Something was missing, a depth I wanted to feel but didn't quite get there.

Ben’s estranged wife was pretty gracious in this story, and I'm really pleased that the author didn't do the usual evil baby-momma trope. I enjoyed this additional layer to the plot, and would have liked a more solid resolution to it.

Overall I think this is a worthwhile read. I did read it in one sitting, so it certainly grabbed me and engaged me. I felt the relationship was never completely equal, and ultimately that would have made me happier, but I could see the potential of where the relationship was heading.

I'd recommend this as something interesting and different. It's compelling and easy to follow. There is some problematic content that was a little off-putting in the beginning, but the rest of the story was good.

A review copy was provided for an honest opinion .

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