Author: Bridget Morrissey
Publisher: Berkley Books
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 368
Date of Publication: June 21, 2022
My Rating: 4 Stars
Dee Matthews is the cohost of the smash-hit podcast Did I Forget To Tell You? where she interviews family, friends, and past lovers. Nothing is off-limits, except for one man (known on the show only as “Name Redacted”) who happens to be her high school best friend Ben. During their senior year spring break, Dee and Ben took a road trip to visit Ben’s grandma. They buried a time capsule in her backyard, pledging to return in ten years to open it. Then their friendship fell apart in spectacular fashion. They haven’t spoken to each other since.
Ben Porter’s life since that moment has been unexciting but comfortable until his grandma reveals a family secret that flips his whole world upside down. Her dying wish is for him to stop taking the safe route and go after what he really wants. He starts by showing up on Dee’s doorstep with every intention of fulfilling their long-ago promise. Despite her reservations, Dee can’t say no. This trip could be her chance to give her listeners the “Name Redacted” interview they’ve been begging for—and finally, put her unresolved feelings for Ben to rest.
As the miles fly by, Dee and Ben's friendship reignites and so does their undeniable spark. Their last adventure ended in disaster, and they’re about to find out if their relationship can be rekindled or if it’s at the end of the road.
"A promise is a promise." Despite a ten-year gap since Dee Matthews and Ben Porter have seen each other, when Ben approaches Dee to ask him to help sort out his now deceased grandmother's belongings, Dee finds that she cannot say no. They were a couple in high school and thought they might be together forever. However, they experienced a bad breakup and the pair haven't seen or spoken to one another in a decade.
As a successful podcaster, Dee has talked about nearly every aspect of her life. There is one issue she won't talk about, or a name at least. That is Ben. In fact, if he does come up in her podcasts, he is only known as NAME REDACTED. Well, he is back, knocking on her door after she just kicked her current boyfriend out. Ben's grandmother has passed and he reminds Dee of that promise from years ago that they would visit her home, and at least dig up the time capsule they buried the one and only time Dee met Ben's grandmother.
Dee finds that she must fulfill her promise and accompany Ben on the thousand mile trek to his grandmother's home. During their travels, and as the story is related in their alternating points of view, one thing is made clear. They never stopped loving one another. However, with so much baggage to sort through, they each explore their feelings all while those long ago feelings quickly begin to resurface.
What an enjoyable read, and right on time for the summer. Second chance romances are always enjoyable to me and this one definitely hit the spot.
Many thanks to Berkley Books and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
Please enjoy the following excerpt:
It's very hard to break up with someone you were never really dating. Which is why a man named Garrett I met three weeks ago on an app is currently crying in my bathroom.
He doesn't know I saw the tears. It would probably embarrass him if I mention it, so I am sitting on my couch reading listener emails while I wait for him to finish up, wondering if I should put on a movie or put him out of his misery and suggest he leave.
My extremely nonchalant request that I "take a little more time for myself" was met with the classic "that makes sense" from him-a veteran move that made me entirely too comfortable with the whole process. I skipped right past the usual assurances: what a fun three weeks we've had, how great it's been to get to know someone new after a recent rough patch. We've been having sex in my apartment and sometimes ordering delivery. I've never even tagged him in an Instagram story. I truly thought he understood what was going on with us.
We have a similar dry humor. It's how we connected in the first place. But tonight, for the first time ever, we went out to dinner together. He was so rude to the server in the name of being snarky that I thought I might walk myself straight to Lake Michigan and take up boat living. In the middle of a rainstorm, no less.
My choice to continue our breakup conversation by saying, "We clearly aren't the kind of people who should ever go out in public," did not land as I'd hoped. He let out a hollow, wounded kind of laugh that made me immediately backpedal, even though what I said was true. In front of an audience of restaurant patrons, our connection had dissolved like cotton candy in water. All that sweetness between us vanished into nothingness. But I dared to call attention to it, and next thing I know he's telling me he has to go to the bathroom, and tears are rimming his eyes.
He doesn't even have my number saved! Just three days ago, I texted him a meme while he was taking a shower, and from my nightstand I saw my full ten-digit phone number flash up on his screen. How could he not feel the straining awkwardness throughout our meal tonight? Is it really possible that my empty yeahs and colorless wows came off as anything other than detached? It's all so absurd it makes me cackle. By the time he's back in my living room-tears dry and brow furrowed-I am laughing louder than the thunder that booms outside.
"What did I miss?" he asks.
Everything, Garrett. You missed everything.
"What's my last name?" I prompt.
"Um . . ."
"Do you know my job?"
"You record a podcast or something."
"How many siblings do I have?"
"I don't know."
"Your name is Garrett Matthew Robertson. You work in finance, in an office near the Hancock building. Your little sister Hannah just graduated from college. Communications degree from DePaul. Send my congrats, by the way."
"Okay, so you're a stalker. Good for you."
There it is. The darkness that always comes out at the first sign of real trouble. A bruise that blooms from whisper-soft pressure. It's amazing how quickly it happens. How little effort it requires on my part.
"I'm a stalker?" I ask.
Predictably, he has no follow-up.
"We've been hooking up for weeks and I follow you online," I continue. "Your full name is in your bio. You post a skyline shot almost every day. I watched part of your sister's commencement ceremony when I accidentally clicked into your graduation livestream."
Garrett glances forlornly at my door. He pushes back the top part of his hair-a truly aspirational sandy blond, if I'm honest-then lets it fall again down his forehead. "Look, this clearly isn't working." He says it with such finality, you'd think it was his idea. If it gets him out of my apartment, he can keep thinking that for the rest of his life.
Still, it's hard to resist a comeback. "Good observation." I give him a thumbs-up.
"Dude, why are you so fucking mean? Like what the fuck?" At once, he gets teary again.
Now I recognize it for what it is: a manipulation tactic. No one gets the upper hand over a handsome man who is crying.
"I'm mean?" I ask, incredulous. "For asking if you know my name?"
"I don't have time for this shit."
He picks up his overnight bag and huffs to my door. He's still wearing his shoes, because no matter how often I ask, he never takes them off right when he enters. It's such an irritating little detail that I almost throw a pillow at him, but he exits too quickly for me to react, slamming my front door shut with an aggressive theatricality my nosy neighbors will certainly register. Add it to their long list of grievances against me.
It devastates me to realize my heart is racing-that Garrett Matthew Robertson the finance bro has gotten any kind of reaction out of me at all. In an effort to release every last ounce of residual adrenaline, I slip off my bra and lean back into my couch, letting the green velvet cushions hug the sides of my face. Not the most orthodox of calming methods, but it gets the job done.
I can't believe I put on nice clothes for this. What a waste of a powder-blue halter jumpsuit and teardrop earrings. I could feel myself overdoing it when I was getting ready. It's been months since I bothered to curl my hair into long copper waves. In spite of every piece of evidence to the contrary, there was a part of me that wanted to believe that Garrett and I had the potential to be something more than hookup buddies.
No choice but to incinerate that part of me to dust!
Three minutes later, he's knocking. He may not know my last name, but it's nice to see he remembers that my apartment door automatically locks and he can't just barge back in and yell, or whatever it is he thinks he needs to do to prove this was all a part of his plan, not mine.
"What do you want?" I call out.
He doesn't answer.
It infuriates me to imagine him waiting for me, ready to unleash a list of grievances he made up on his walk toward the train station. I gave him a chance to go quietly, and he's not taking it. Neighbors be damned. I want a fight.
With as much gusto as possible, I swing my front door open and bark out one loud, aggressive "What?"
It is not Garrett Matthew Robertson the finance bro waiting on the other side.
Instead it is the last person in the world I ever thought I'd see again.
Ben Porter stands in front of me.
It takes me a second to orient myself. Surely this is an alternate reality intersecting with my current one, and Garrett accidentally got swapped for Ben, and soon the ceiling will become the floor and I will learn that we all speak colors and smell numbers.
He has one battered duffel bag slung across his taut midsection and three dark beauty marks dotting his left cheek. Those moles are my very own Orion's Belt, because that's the only constellation I ever bothered to learn, on the only face I've ever cared to memorize.
His eyes are still brown and bashful. His hair is long enough to curl at the ends, soft brown waves ringleted by the rain, contrasting with the new sharpness in his cheeks. A stipple of scruff further accentuates the angles. No more worn-out Chucks and rumpled band shirt. No more baby face. He looks steady. And well aware of how good a drenched navy blue tee clings to his skin.
"A promise is a promise," he whispers, soaking wet and breathless, dripping puddles onto the carpeted hallway of my apartment complex.
My hands lose feeling. My mind insists on running a highlight reel of memories for me, making sure I haven't forgotten that this is a person I've slept with, and dreamt of, and written intensely embarrassing Notes app poetry about that I've already asked my cohost, Javi, to read on our podcast in the event of my untimely demise. Just so Ben would really feel my absence.
Now I feel his presence, and my first instinct is to close the door, lock myself in my bathroom, and stare at myself in the mirror until the pores on my nose upset me for a week straight. But as impulsive as I can be, I am occasionally great at silencing my first instinct and waiting for a better one to emerge.
It turns out in the event of my high school best friend arriving unannounced in the middle of a thunderstorm-after an entire decade of complete silence between us-my second instinct is to intimidate. I fold my arms across my chest, mostly because I am furious at myself for daring to answer while not wearing a bra. Lucky for me, the gesture lends to the steely mood I'm hoping to strike.
"What does that mean? What are you doing here?" My foot taps against the floor as if my time could be better spent looking anywhere but at Ben Porter's face.
If he's expected a kinder greeting from me, he doesn't show it. Instead he smiles. A heartbreaking, earth-shifting, choir-of-angels-singing kind of smile.
"Hi, Dee." He pauses. "It's good to see you too."
At once I'm flooded with the same bone-deep nostalgic longing that makes me open YouTube at three in the morning and watch all the videos we posted together back in the day. I've made all of them private so my listeners don't stumble across them and uncover the one thing I refuse to directly discuss on my show. The first time Ben was ever mentioned while recording, I made Javi bleep out his name in post. Now Ben is known on the podcast as Name Redacted, an infamous, mysterious side character in my otherwise very open-book life.
One of our YouTube videos is ten minutes of us walking around our hometown. We spend the first half coming up with an elaborate undercover identity for our science teacher, Mr. Davis, all while navigating the aftermath of the previous night's snowfall. The video takes a turn when Ben steps into a snow pile that's not sturdily packed, and he ends up chest deep. Instantly, the two of us are nearly heaving we're laughing so hard. I can't grab onto him tight enough to pull him out because my arms are getting a tickle sensation. It's so cold his cheeks are flushed berry red. I set the camera down on another snow pile, and for the rest of the video, all you can see is his face and my back. And the way he's looking at me. It's like I created the universe with my own bare hands.
Here's that very same Ben Porter. And the way he's looking at me right now-it's really not that different from the old clip of us. Even though everything is different. Down to the shade of red in my hair and the city we're in and surely every single thing about our lives.
"Can I come in?" he asks, because I have been standing here waiting for the sky to fall through the roof. "I can explain everything once I'm inside."
"I don't know if I want you to," I accidentally admit.
Ben backs up until he's against the wall across from my door, a trail of rainwater marking his path. He slides down until he's sitting, all the while never breaking eye contact. "I understand. This is a lot."
"Yeah," I say weakly. Leave it to Ben to understate a thing.
"I'll wait here. And if you still feel the same way after an hour, I'll leave."
All those well-practiced talking points I've assured myself I'd launch into immediately if I ever saw him again? I can't remember a single one. In this moment, I truly cannot recall why we haven't spoken or why it is that I'm not supposed to be nice to him. It's a marvel I even know my own name.
Second instincts be damned.
I slam my door shut.
You can do anything for a minute.
That's what Darius says when I join him for his famous 4:30 a.m. running workouts. I should give him a call. Running has always been my least favorite form of exercise. But right now, 9:23 p.m. on a rainy Friday in Chicago, my body seems to think it's in my best interest to get up and do a 5K.
If Darius is right, and I can do anything for a minute, then I have thirty-seven more to go. Sitting and waiting. No matter what my body seems to want, my resolve has to be stronger. Even if she never comes back out. I need to know I stayed here as long as I said I would.
Gam once called me a loose nail. I stick myself out when no one is prepared, snagging things without trying. She meant it to sound like a surprise no one would pick up on when first meeting me. Most of the time, I make myself into whatever I need to be to keep everyone happy. It feels good to make people smile, and it's nice to keep things uncomplicated. Until suddenly I'm getting into my car and driving across state lines to see a girl I haven't spoken to since I was eighteen, and I'm standing in her doorway, sopping wet, saying, A promise is a promise.
Five words. After ten years. There's so much more that needs to be said beyond those seven syllables. But I took one look at her face, and the rest seemed unimportant.
Maybe it's better for the both of us if I leave. I only know that I did that once, and I ruined everything. So I have to stay. Minute by minute. I can't give up again.
A promise is a promise, and this time, I intend to follow through.
A little under two minutes left on the clock, I find Ben sitting exactly where I left him.
"I expected the full hour," he tells me, forcing out a laugh. He's still soaking wet. His teeth are chattering.
"Well? Are you going to get up?" I make the brave decision to saunter out of his view, like it doesn't matter to me whether he follows me inside, though my thoughts are screaming, BEN PORTER IS IN MY HALLWAY AND NOW THAT I AM WEARING A BRA I ACTUALLY KNOW I LOOK GREAT AND THAT IS EXTREMELY SATISFYING AND ALSO DEEPLY OVERWHELMING.
Excerpted from A Thousand Miles by Bridget Morrissey. Copyright © 2022 by Bridget Morrissey. Excerpted by permission of Berkley Publishing Group. All right reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am an avid reader in my early 40’s. I joined Goodreads a few years ago to keep track of books I had read, and books I wanted to read. It wasn’t long before I started writing reviews for the books I had read. Next I joined NetGalley and found even more books to read and review! I love to give my thoughts and opinions on what I have read and eventually decided to create this blog in order to keep all of my reviews in one place.