Publication Date: July 3, 2013
In Everybody’s Got a Story by Heather Wardell, Alexa was living in New York City when she was brutally attacked and mutilated by her boyfriend, Christophe. Alexa’s parents want her to return to Alberta to live with them, but when Alexa’s employer gives her the chance to work in the Toronto office, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. In a new city and with new co-workers, will Alexa feel more alone or will she reclaim her life? Everybody’s Got a Story (Toronto Series) (Volume 12) is the twelveth book in the Toronto series.
The author, Heather Wardell, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
I have not read any other books in the series. As a story of a victim regaining control of her life, Everybody’s Got a Story is a good read. Alexa is brutalized and wanting to trust people but is hesitant to do so. She is jumpy and unwilling to trust. What Alexa tells us happened, and what we witness in the court case, is brutal and graphic. Alexa was held hostage, tortured and only saved from Christophe’s ultimate goal of her demise by chance. Wardell seems to either know or have researched the psychology of victims of sexual assault in the initial layout of her story, though what happened to Alexa goes beyond much of what will be seen on Dateline.
I found the story of the abused cat that Alexa brought home credible. I owned a cat that had been abused that never arrived at the level of comfort that Stella the kitten does with Alexa. Learning to trust would have been a big deal for Stella, and she learns within the story line as Alexa does rather mirroring the symbiotic relationship between Holly Golightly and her cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Though, spoiler alert: Alexa never runs through the rain screaming Stella’s name. There are times when the mirror recovery is a bit heavy-handed, but otherwise, it is a charming relationship.
Wardell’s background characters are solidly written. She warns at the start of the novel that Jake has appeared in other stories and that this story contains spoilers for those tales. I haven’t read those stories, and in this one, Jake is perhaps a bit too perfect. He’s up front, patient, kind and willing to pick up whatever crumbs are left for him. He tells Alexa of his past and leaves where they go completely to her in an act of perhaps over-sensitivity. I won’t spoil his role in the novel by giving details, but I will say that everything is a bit too easy between Jake and Alexa. I can see not wanting to pile more heartache on the character when she’s been through not only so much with Christophe, but also with other characters in the novel seeking to use her. But then, the story is about Alexa and not Jake, so does he have to play a more complex role? I’ll leave that to you to decide when you read the story.
To credit Wardell, this story could have been really heavy and dark — the story of a woman who has been to hell and back and is escaping her demons. In a sense that is the story but Wardell keeps it quite real. In all of the downs, there are ups. There is never a lost sense of hope that the character will one day come out on the other side. While a quick read, Wardell doesn’t spare the moments that leave us smiling and knowing that while Alexa will have good days and bad days, one day the good will outweigh the bad.
Wardell defines her work as “women’s fiction” on her website, and I find that description to be apt. Her work is overwhelmingly emotional. The reader will laugh, cry, feel empathy, feel horror and ultimately cheer for the main character who has been through so much and deserves all the joy that life has to offer. I’d recommend Everybody’s Got a Story for readers who like tales of the human experience.
Read an excerpt and buy Everybody’s Got a Story by Heather Wardell on