Friends First by Angela Lam
Publication Date: February 4th 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Stars: ★★★★★ [4.5]
Maddy Strong doesn’t like to be alone but a weight loss boot camp is not her idea of a good time. Working out and counting calories is a test she’s bound to fail—especially when paired with fitness-focused Greg as a workout partner.
Health-conscious Greg Power is desperate to end his night terrors. While he doubts his therapist’s prescription of exhausting his body and reprogramming his mind he is willing to try anything.
During their workouts they uncover a deep connection. But when their friendship blossoms into love, they discover possibilities neither have ever considered. Faced with the biggest decision of their lives, who will they choose?
*** Note: I received e-copy this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author. ***
Friends First was contemporary fiction set in Atlanta that revolved around Maddy and Greg. It was about excessive eating and drinking habits, struggle in weight loss, PTSD but mainly it was about friendship, helping and supporting each other in friendship, living for yourself and your loved one, and giving second chance to love and life.
That synopsis said it all so I’m not going to repeat it in this review. I’m also not sure how much should say in this review as I want to discuss characters and in doing so I fear I might include more than I should.
First of all, the writing was engaging and easy to follow. Story was told in third person narrative from both Maddy and Greg’ perspective, alternatively. It was character driven and author did wonderful job with both these characters.
Both Maddy and Greg were flawed, damaged and lost, made wrong decisions and were escaping their problems. They needed somebody to lean on even though they both were engaged, they needed somebody to understand their problems and help them. You would be thinking why they need each other if they had fiancé. For that you need to know characters. Let me start with 34-yr-old Maddy.
From the very beginning I didn’t understand why Maddy was marrying Darren. Clearly they had many issues. She couldn’t live alone or eat alone but Darren had job that required traveling. If she had problem with his traveling, why would she commit to relationship or agree to marry was beyond me. Maddy didn’t like cleaning or any physical work out while Darren was well built and preferred cleanliness. Darren sometimes ignored Maddy but kept constant contact with her siblings while she couldn’t get along with them. Result of these differences were, Maddy eating and drinking excessively to suppress her feeling, sadness and unhappiness that ultimately caused weight gain.
Now I didn’t like the way Darren was pushing her, nicknaming her porky, and threatening her to reduce her weight. She shouldn’t let him control her but thing was she wasn’t comfortable or happy with her body. She felt jealous of her sister who was slim and rich. She envied all who had fit body. Moreover, her habits were unhealthy to the limit that it could harm her. She had no control over her behavior after drinking. She was also a bit selfish. She asked Darren to leave his dream job so he could stay home with her, even when there was fear of losing her job.
As I read more I could see why she disliked her siblings. They were obviously were not easy to get along. They were really controlling and treated her like a baby. They didn’t trust her to take her own decisions. As I read more of her and Greg’s conversations I saw why she was with Darren as well. Greg brought out the best in her. She could see and accept what she was doing wrong and how she should come out of it, learned to face her problem, draw boundaries in relationships, and express her feelings more openly. She saw what true love is and that made her question her relationship with Darren. I was curious to see whom she will choose or if she would marry Darren?
Greg was 50-yr-old, escaping his home, his family and life. His father’s contemptuous remarks left deep scar in his soul. Losing leg, returning from war without accomplishing his mission was failure him. He was suffering from PTSD for years. His lack of confidence, will to live, panic attacks and nightmares kept him wondering, doing temporary jobs in different states, cheating his fiancée by giving into his new addiction, lust. He was going through a lot for long time and that too alone. I felt for him but at the same time I didn’t like his infidelity to Amy, his fiancée who was really saint and was waiting for him for 30 years! Who can have this much patience? He was fool really.
Maddy made him see how selfish he was and what he was losing by his behavior. I wasn’t sure if he really loved Amy. When his and Maddy’s friendship developed, it really confused me whom he loved and at the same time made me curious to find out who he will choose at the end.
Both character’s development was great. I loved their friendship and how they evolved throughout the book. Along with this friendship and drama, author talked about PTSD and panic attacks and some people’s prejudice and behavior with person suffering from trauma, how much support, love and patience they need to come out of it through Greg’s story; and danger of eating and drinking disorder and how strong will and determination can help to overcome it through Maddy’s story. I loved the message of giving a second chance to whom you love and it might surprise you.
Climax was good. I could see what will happen next and thought I would rate it 4 but I liked what characters decided and the way story ended. It was different from clichés or what I predicted.
Why 4.5 stars-
There was nothing wrong with the story and I actually enjoyed it. But when I gave a thought later, I was skeptical about characters’ decision at the end. If it happened to me in both the cases I wouldn’t have taken that decision. I kept thinking, is it that easy to forgive?
Overall, it was interesting, engaging contemporary dealing with good topics and characters that gives you so much to discuss over.
Book Links: Goodreads
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