Sorrow by Tiffanie DeBartolo revolves around protagonist Joe Harper, and Joe, we are told from the very beginning, is not a brave man. What made him this way? Well, it’s a moment so drenched in sorrow, that it has coloured his entire life. It made him fearful about truly living, because deep down, he feels he doesn’t deserve happiness and a life of passion. When we meet Joe, he is in dire straits, and we assume it has something to do with his ex-girlfriend October, who has sent him an invitation to her performance art, entitled Sorrow.
DeBartolo throws us back into Joe’s past, and we see that he had passion once. He and his best friend Cal were in a band together, and they were planning to move to Brooklyn after graduation to try and make it big. Joe is a gifted musician, truly skilled in a genius-sort of way, and has such a rapport with guitars that you know he and Cal could have succeeded at their dream. But then graduation came, and Cal left on his own. Afterwards, Joe uses the pieces of his shattered dream to cut himself up, letting the wounds hum within him, just drifting about without any sense of purpose.
This all changes when he meets October. From the moment the two meet, it feels like kismet, and both of them recognise that they will be important to each other. The problem? October has a boyfriend, and while her feelings for him are nothing compared to what she feels for Joe, Joe can’t bring himself to dive in full force. He is often at the peripheries of her life, desiring October so intensely, yet refusing to take the plunge because he doesn’t want to ruin her life.
So yes, there is the presence of the boyfriend, but it is Joe who gets in the way of Joe, so used to the melancholic hue that inundates his life that he self-sabotages. Ultimately, it is not October who can teach Joe about being brave, he has to get there himself, and DeBartolo takes us with him on his journey, from sorrow to happiness, from pain to heart-racing joy.
DeBartolo’s prose is gorgeous stuff, and oftentimes I find myself just reading certain passages over and over again, wrapping myself in the swirling beauty of her words. When Joe and October are together, you will find yourself holding your breath, your heart racing as you taste their chemistry and passion. She builds an erotic, sensual space so effortlessly, taking us on flights of fancy we never want to return from.
The novel has one big twist, but for the most part remains fairly predictable. It doesn’t matter though, because even if you think you know the ending, the important thing here is Joe’s journey, and yours as well. As we watch Joe struggle to be brave, and eventually overcome this obstacle, we are meant to reflect on our own lives, and evaluate how much passion we have in it. Are you living your life the way you want to? Like Joe, it is easy to make excuses, to take the easy way because we fear confrontation, or fear the loss that comes with our deviations from a set path. DeBartolo is telling us to leap, take a chance, be the artist of our own lives.
Considering the year 2020 has been, DeBartolo’s novel is an uplifting breath of fresh air, and one you might consider adding to your shelf to chase the blues away.
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