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Surviving Emily
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
A Heartwarming Story, Impossible to Put Down

Surviving Emily by Laurie Bellesheim, is more than a heartwarming story--it is an event. I cried with the characters, feared along with them, applauded their milestones, identified with their setbacks, and learned from the book.

Backstory: Emily, Abigail, and Stephen were close friends throughout high school, even after Emily became engaged to Stephen. On November 11 of their senior year--a dozen years prior to the story's present--Emily died of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). At the time of Emily's death, she was staying at the home of Abigail. Abigail found Emily's body.

SURVIVING EMILY begins in flashback with the scene of Abigail finding Emily's body and realizing that her friend is dead. It is a horrific moment, masterfully told, and from the first page and moving forward, the reader is immediately inside the book.

We meet an older Stephen and Abigail twelve years after Emily's death. The long-term effects of their grief have kept them from finding love again. Scenes shift from past to present and from Abigail's life to Stephen's as they cope with their loss, or not, remember the shock, stumble, go their separate ways, or not, stuff or try to medicate away their emotions, seek help, and attempt to move on.

There is a subplot, involving Nancy and her child, Marie. Their story functions as catalyst forcing Abigail to examine her past. The dialogue between Nancy and Abigail is wonderful, as are the scenes with Abigail and her pregnant co-worker. They serve to flesh out the main character.

Laurie Bellesheim weaves the subplot into the main story arc, and an `ah-hah moment' occurs when Abigail--recently married, pregnant, and working at the Department of Children and Families--realizes that she is the one who needs saving. Tension builds. Characters hang between life and death. Incredibly the lives of all characters intertwine in a believable way and have their part to play in the final, nail-biting scenes.

If I could wish for anything, I'd want a closer look at Carolina's parents. I didn't quite believe these characters, especially in one of the scenes between the father and Stephen, but that's a minor point.

SURVIVING EMILY is a heartwarming, sad, and realistic tale of two people, the paths their lives take after experiencing the sudden death of their friend, Emily. Its theme is survival and growth after catastrophic loss. I read it in one afternoon and predict you won't be able to put it down, either.

I'd recommend SURVIVING EMILY to any reader who loves a page-turning story and who keeps a box of tissues handy. I await Laurie Bellesheim's next novel.

Presentation is professional: a cover that stands out in thumbnail view, professional editing, proofreading, and ebook formatting.

About the Author: Laurie Bellesheim, a published poet, belongs to several writers' organizations including Writer's Digest, Authors Den and Goodreads.

Laurie began writing at a young age, starting with poetry and short stories. In 2008, shortly after becoming a stay-at-home mother to three children, she decided to fulfill a dream of hers, inspired to write SURVIVING EMILY because of the loss of a close friend to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) when she was a teenager.

Not only does SURVIVING EMILY hold great meaning for her, but Laurie also hopes her novel will help raise awareness about epilepsy and the deadly condition of SUDEP.

Laurie was a social worker for six years. She graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a bachelor's degree in social work. She lives in Connecticut with her loving husband and three children.

SURVIVING EMILY
Copyright © 2011 by Laurie Bellesheim
Kindle Edition
ASIN: B006VHG5R8

First Published in Paper
2011 by Dog Ear Publishing, LLC
ISBN-13: 978-1457505621
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
Good, strong suspense draws the reader right into this must-read story of three high school friends and how the death of one left the remaining two shattered. Emily, Stephen and Abigail are close high school friends, Emily and Stephen a teenage couple and Abigail their good friend. Then, at age 17 Emily dies of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy(SUDEP). She suffered from epilepsy which is a neurological condtion of the brain, but Emily just wanted to be normal and stopped taking her anti-convulsive medicine. She thought she was seizure-free, but she wasn't and died from SUDEP at Abigails' house where she was living temporarily. The years pass, and Abigail is now a social worker, happily married with a baby on the way, but she still has nightmares about Emily. Stephen has become an artist, is about to open his own art gallery, but loses his live-in girlfriend, Carolina, as he cannot move beyond loving Emily, now long dead. This is a well-written book about epilepsy and how the lives of those around someone epileptic are affected if that person doesn't go through the required testing and doesn't take anti-convulsive medicine despite its side-effects."Surviving Emily" is a book long-overdue in the marketplace.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Losing a friend or loved one at a young age can greatly alter one's life course and even send them on a different path. Best friends Stephen and Abigail lost a best friend and a girl friend one morning when Emily was found dead from Sudden Death related to her disease epilepsy. At first these two friends clung to each other in hopes to help each other cope with the loss, but suddenly their friendship came to a screaming halt.

Told through both friends perspectives, this book was heart wrenching because the reader really feels these friends pain with losing someone so close. I absolutely loved how the story weaved in and out. There was an ease to the reading which made the book even more enjoyable. A few side story lines didn't jumble the book at all, it added depth to these two characters and gave their lives a fullness.

I would pass this book onto any kind of reader. There was heart and soul for those readers who need a emotion, but the reading was simple for the reader who doesn't like a hard read. I will be watching out for what comes next from Laurie Bellesheim.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I read this book within a 36 hour time span. I read fast, and once I'm "into" a story I can't put it down. I definitely lost sleep while reading this one. Not only is it well-written, but it's got such a wide-expanse of subject matter - there is something in here for everyone. It's about the sudden loss of a young women, but there is so much more. Relationships, addiction, parenting, and friendship are among the many themes that are interwoven and explored. I expected it to be a "sad story" but was surprised at the different places that touched me for unexpected reasons. It's very engaging, educational, entertaining, suspenseful, introspective, eye-opening, and more. It's a great story that will touch your heart in many ways.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book provides it all as a fictional love story and more. It makes one consider why the condition of Epilepsy is often treated like it is something shameful such as leprosy once was in biblical times, socially unacceptable and must be kept secret. This story illustrates the sad consequences that can occur when it is hidden due to fear of others disapproval. Book is also about confronting one's past, forgiveness and hope. An excellent read, with a plot that draws you in and keeps you there. This is one of those books I was still reading well past bedtime.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
From the outset, this was an emotional ride. Imagine losing a best friend and never quite letting go of future dreams and plans you'd made with that person. Heartbreaking. Though a heartbreaking story, I did not cry while reading.
Surviving Emily looks at some interesting faith issues surrounding death. Throughout the book the characters question their faith and relationships based on the loss of a loved one.
While reading, I could understand why people may also lose their faith because of false perceptions of illnesses - in this case, epilepsy, held by some religious people. A major thread through Surviving Emily is the danger or untreated epilepsy. I personally haven't met anyone with epilepsy who doesn't take medication - but I'm sure there are people out there who refuse to seek medical guidance.
Being such an emotional read, I was hoping for a happy ending. But it didn't come. The ending was finished and satisfying, yet there was one scene that could have been made happy and wasn't. I know that's my personal reader preference - I'm a happy ending kind of girl.
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on November 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
So, I've given up on the whole "not reading books that make me cry" thing. Still not my preference, but I'm just reading too wide a variety of books for that to happen. I was braced for crying going into this book, but I don't think I did. I have no idea why, except that possibly it's because I didn't get to know Emily until after she died. Laurie tells us Abigail's and Stephen's stories mostly in the present, with enough memories and flashbacks to have the full backstory. This is a beautifully-written story with an unpredictable ending. I had a little "hmph" moment at the end because everything wasn't wrapped up nicely in a pretty bow. But that's a personal thing. That's why I usually read fluffy romance novels: no crying and a pretty, happy ending. Life isn't like that, though, and some of the best books reflect that.

I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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on November 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
I'm not one for being known as a book worm. However, when I started to read this book, I could not put it down. I had to keep reading on to find out what was going to happen next with the characters. I also wasn't too familiar with/aware of Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy. My heart goes out to everyone with this or who loses a loved one. Writing was excellent and very informative. The author made me want to know more like I mentioned. I loved how it ended. It was suspenseful and then you were left wondering would they ever cross paths again? A great cliff hanger!
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Format: Paperback
Surviving Emily gripped me with twists, and a deep, complex connection between the two main characters, Stephen and Abagail. As someone who reads a great deal of fiction, as well as writing it, I marvel at how I was surprised by the emerging plot as well as the end. Anyone with "unfinished business" from childhood or adolescence will deeply connect to this story, as it calls us to search our own past and how unresolved grief may be impacting our daily life.
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on December 19, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Young lives that are cut short is never an easy subject to write about. You can speculate forever about what might have been for those that have been lost. In Laurie Bellesheim's Surviving Emily we have two narratives running concurrently of two people struggling to pick up the pieces following the death of someone who was a best friend and a lover respectively.

The novel begins with the death of Emily from SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy). Emily is staying with her best friend Abigail Hooper at the time. Twelve years on and Abigail is married and expecting a baby but unable to move on from what happened to Emily. Elsewhere, Stephen Sparks, Emily's boyfriend, is in a new relationship but has not forgotten the love of his life who he had hoped to marry. As the story unfolds both Abigail and Stephen try to move on with their lives and minimise the impact their struggle has on those around them.

As you will have guessed this is a very emotional story. Emily's tragic death rips the hearts out of Abigail and Stephen. The three were once inseparable - Abigail and Emily almost identical - while Stephen had planned to marry Emily and always be with her. Abigail's work with the Department for Children and Families leads her to taking on the case of Nancy and her child Marie. Nancy suffers with epilepsy and this becomes a pivotal moment for Abigail to face the past and try to move on from her grief. Abigail's pregnancy is also a key part of the novel. Her baby is due in December but she dreads it being born early in November, the same month that Emily died.

Stephen is in a long-term relationship with Carolina who works in the maternity ward at the local hospital. Though Stephen loves Carolina he cannot fully commit to her much to both his girlfriend's and her parents' horror. Stephen is an artist that has survived the aftermath of Emily's passing when he turned to alcohol for solace and managed to push away the one person who truly understood his pain - Abigail. The question is can both Stephen and Abigail get their lives back on track? Will they be reunited?

Of the two narratives I found myself more engaged by Stephen's tale. Abigail's story was moving and although the thread with Nancy and Marie was good and has a surprising turn, I felt the pregnancy hindered the story somewhat. Complications inevitably arise when Abigail reaches November and tragedy is just round the corner but then the story seems to be resolved with the click of a finger. It's a good ending but I just felt it was a bit too easy. Stephen's story has a resolution of sorts too but that still showed some fragility which I felt made that narrative better than Abigail's. These are minor quibbles from what is still a good story.

Surviving Emily is a tragic and emotional journey, the sad story of a girl who dies too young and of the two most important people in her life nearly destroyed by her death. Though aspects of Abigail's narrative seemed a bit too simple and a little melodramatic for me, I still thought the book as a whole worked well and addresses a very serious issue in the dangers of epilepsy especially if it goes untreated.
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