Set in the rolling hills of Tennessee, Losing Gabriel by Lurlene McDaniel tells the story of three young adults whose choices as teens force them to become adults before their time. Sloane, escaping her past through music, tries to find the love she’s never experienced with Dawson. In turn, Dawson hopes to salve the grief of his mother’s death through Sloane and her music. And, finally, Lani, a student studying nursing after the death of her cousin Arie (in The Year of Luminous Love), becomes intertwined with their lives as the three of them care for an ailing child.
After reading this book, I have to say there’s a reason Ms. McDaniel has been writing well-loved novels for so many years—she is an author who carries her readers into a story and wrings their emotions. Sloane is not what I expected. (McDaniel never takes the clichéd route with her characters or storylines.) And despite Sloane’s choices, I found myself rooting for her the entire novel. Even while I was rooting for Lani.
While this novel explores difficult life choices and their aftermath, it does it with grace and compassion.
As always, McDaniel’s writing is polished and clean. There’s never a moment where the text draws attention to itself and away from the story. The plot is well-paced and engrossing. When I began reading I thought, “Oh, I’ll just read the first few chapters.” I ended up finishing the novel in a couple of sittings because I couldn’t let go of the characters.
Five stars. Highly recommended.