Friday, 14 August 2015

Review: Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan

Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan

Samhain Publishing
Publication Date: April 7th, 2015
Pages: 290
Series: Rooselvelt #1
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5/5/
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High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.

But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.

As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.

Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.

I can't really recall what lead me to discover Carry the Ocean. I was browsing Goodreads(as we do) and found it. I read that description and just knew there was no way I could pass up reading this book. I read the chapter sampler and that immediately captured my need to read this in full. But alas my library didn't look like it was going to stock it anytime soon. So I said self, I know you're supposed to be slowing down on the book buying, but I will let you order this in paperback because there is almost a 0% chance you will regret that purchase. Turns out I was right. Carry the Ocean is so positive in it's portrayal of autism, depression and being gay. My heart was continually warmed well reading through this beautiful book.

Ultimately this story was about Emmet and Jeremey surviving the huge stack of odds against their relationship working. Hell, even forming. Emmet noticed Jeremey when him and his family moved in down the block. Than Emmet did what anyone who finds someone attractive does; internet stalk them. It takes almost a year for their paths to cross, but when it does immediate friendship is formed that continues to develop into more. From there, together, they tackle independence, acceptance, love, and the world. It was hard not admire both of them  for overcoming the stigma that the world is against anyone a little different. Even being "normal" is hard enough. Having a disability or disease makes you stronger and more adept at facing the days. Even more so after a bad day or set back.

I can't even with Emmet. I know he would never let me, but I would want to hug him. It's obviously been a long road to where Emmet and his family were, it's clear they worked hard to make sure Emmet was happy and living the life he should be. Emmet being autistic means he super sensitive to the world around him. His social skills and emotions can be a struggle to overcome. But very little gets in Emmets way. He's a genius, going to college with many hobbies. Emmet has learned to overcome what could stand in his way. He's set himself a routine; he's figured out what works for him so as not to close himself off from the outside world. And that includes learning conversational tools, facial cues, and just having a supportive family to help him in what he needs.

Jeremey started having panic attacks in high school. He was diagnosed with depression. But his parents seemed to decide that they could make him "normal" without help. So poor Jeremey has been barely getting by as his mom nags, yells and prods him to just live like any other eighteen year old guy. Jeremey's anxiety prevents him from doing just that. Emmet enters Jeremeys life when he absolutely needs a friend. Emmet understands Jeremey and this is what brings about this trust. As the friendship grows Emmet works up the courage to tell Jeremey he wants to date him. Emmet and his family knows he's gay, Jeremey is still not there. Jeremey's mom finds him and Emmet finishing a kiss and thus leads to the bottom for Jeremey.

I'm of course not going to summarize the whole book, but that bottom of the bottom is where the light starts to shine. Jeremey is able to finally get the help he needs. He's diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Jeremey feels emotions so loudly and intensely that it's a struggle for him be around people. But like Emmet, Jeremey knew he had to figure out how to manage his depression and anxiety. He now had the support and help for him to achieve that.

The work and love that Emmet and Jeremey put in to make their relationship thrive is by far my favourite part in Carry the Ocean. It's hard work to keeping a relationship healthy and alive. Emmet and Jeremey have their own daily battles to fight, which would only make it harder on their relationship. Except it doesn't. Sure, there's misunderstandings. But ultimately they know they love each other. They make each others lives brighter. And if that means working harder to manage those obstacles than it's absolutely worth it.
"To be with Jeremey meant managing my autism, my octopus and my feelings. I would be a great deal of work, all the time, more intense than the most complicated math problem in the world. Except this was so much more wonderful than any math problem could be." 
The romance is adorable and sweet.  Both are unsure, which makes it a bit clumsy. It was baby steps. Very tentative baby steps. But as they found their way it became very romantic and passionate. They were able to experiment with each other. And move forward at a speed both Emmet and Jeremey could feel comfortable at. Being that their needs at times were on opposite scales their communication was top priority. They had to learn to give and take but also accommodate each others feelings. I melted at their first kiss. I melted at their second. And every time after that. I love how they accepted so easily that this may not be how most couples get intimate, but it fits for them and that's all that matters.

Emmet wasn't there to fix Jeremey. He was the foundation and rock he needed to stabilize. Emmet was able to help Jeremey cope. Jeremey accepted Emmet, loved him. They learned how to build a relationship together on trust, communication, acceptance and love. Like any relationship bumps appear in the road. Although for Emmet and Jeremey those bumps might appear a little bigger it didn't bring them down. Even when people don't want to accept how Emmet can understand what being in love or having a boyfriend is. Or just being intolerant of Emmet and Jeremey's relationship, it doesn't discourage them. They are planning for a future, sharing their dreams. Emmet and Jeremey found independence together. Something especially for Emmet thought he'd never have. Such a tender, caring and wonderful relationship.

Emmet and Jeremey were both truly inspiring characters. I have zero first hand experience with depression or autism. Where would I pick up the knowledge about either except through text. Did I ever expect to find a better understanding in a gay romance? Nope. But I did. And that's seriously what makes Carry the Ocean so awe inspiring and insightful. I struggled writing this review. I knew it was my job to get the word out about something I think should have a much bigger readership. Offering a bit more insight into what a wonderfully heartwarming diverse love story Carry the Ocean is. I want everyone to pick this book up well I stock up on all of Cullinan's previous novels.

Happy reading!


1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a really interesting and emotional read. I like that the relationship seems to be built on friendship and healing. What a huge set of topics this covers! Sometimes that can make the book feel overloaded but it sounds like in this case it was just right!