Just Look Up – Courtney Walsh – Tyndale House – Published 4 July 2017
After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.
Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.
Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.
Just Look Up is an enthralling contemporary novel, with a very relatable message of discovering one’s self worth and beauty. I was wonderfully content to settle within the pages of this story and surround myself with the vibrant characters.
Lane Kelley left her home town of Harbor Pointe and never looked back. She surrounds herself with work and is content to let that dictate her life – work can’t hurt her like a relationship or family could. But a family accident drags Lane back home, risking a promotion and subjecting her to the shame of the past that she was so eager to escape. Ryan Brooks found solace in Harbor Pointe. To him, it is a refuge away from the trauma of war and his childhood. But the accident that nearly claims both his and his friend’s life brings up his past, as does Lane returning home. He hopes that he can show Lane that she is worth far more than her work life and that in taking the time to slow down she might find contentment and be willing to risk her heart again.
I am so glad I read this novel. I didn’t overly enjoy Paper Hearts, the only other book I have previously read by this author, and I was a little reluctant to take the risk on this, her latest release. But I am so glad I did read it because it was so worth it. Just Look Up was simply wonderful. The characters and settings, both Lane’s busy work of Chicago and the small-town Harbor Pointe, leapt off the page.
Lane Kelley was a character to whom it was so easy to relate. As was her constant struggle with self image and valuing herself. My heart went out to Lane. The way her family and the people of Harbor Pointe treated her, both as a child and an adult, was absolutely terrible. Where’s the common decency? You just don’t say those kind of things to people! I wanted to shake them or yell at them. You call yourself a loving family? But Lane’s family are human and they naturally made a few mistakes, and it was Lane who carried the emotional brunt of those mistakes. But Lane made a few mistakes herself (totally understandable, given the circumstances) by wrapping that hurt around her and letting it isolate her from her family, friends, and the world. She buried herself in work and tried to define her worth in success and achievements. Returning to Harbor Pointe and reconnecting with Ryan brings all her old feelings to the surface once again.
Ryan Brooks is a darling. I loved him! His dogged determination to reach out to Lane is wonderful. He has always loved her, but was never brave enough to act on his feelings. Until now. He knows it will take perseverance to show Lane how much he values her, as well as giving her space to figure some things out on her own. Ryan hides his insecurities underneath a facade of humour, charm, and flirting. Lane is one of the few people to ever see beyond that facade. But hidden behind that surface is a man who cares deeply, worries about his responsibilities, and wants so desperately to do the right thing and somehow give back to all the people who have supported him.
There are additional romances in this story which are just begging to be shared in their own books. I would especially love it if Ryan’s sister Hailey got her own story. Faith is gently woven into Just Look Up and is the perfect underpinning factor to this story. Just Look up has a lovely balance between self discovery, faith, family, and romance.
This whole book has a golden glow to it, much like the long shadows and fading sunlight on a beautiful afternoon. This tone resonated through the story, making it a delightful book to read. I was surprised and enchanted by this story. I connected deeply with the characters, especially Lane, and I fell in love with this story of finding the time to slow down, look up and appreciate everything going on around.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Christian contemporary.
Themes: Romance, work, work-life balance, family, weight, self-esteem, faith, family, self image.
Published: 4 July 2017 by Tyndale House Publishers.
Format: Paperback, ebook, audiobook. 416 pages.