Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. It’s been this way since Lydia Bird and Freddie Hunter were fourteen years old. But Lydia’s world turns upside down when Freddie dies on her 28th birthday because of a car accident. Lost and grieving, she starts taking experimental pills to help her sleep. Then the pills don’t just help her sleep: they take her to a world where Freddie lives. But real life goes on, whether she is asleep or awake. Now Lydia has to make a choice: stay in her dreamworld with Freddie, or figure out her new life without him.
There’s no sugarcoating the pain of losing the love of your life, but Josie Silver takes you through Lydia’s grieving process with empathy and understanding. I was genuinely afraid that the plot would turn into someone spiraling into drug addiction after the loss of a loved one (my heart wasn’t ready for that), but instead, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a painfully honest but still hopeful look at love and loss – the pain, denial, and anger of it all, but still managing to find your way out. The way out may not be fast, it will be painful, and will strain your relationships with your surviving loved ones, but it is possible.
The book is told from Lydia’s point-of-view, so we get a front row seat to everything that she’s feeling. She’s a fleshed-out character, with distinct motivations and thought processes. The secondary characters – Jonah Jones (Freddie’s best friend who was actually Lydia’s friend first), her sister Elle, and her mom – are also important to Lydia’s journey. Though we only see them in the context of Lydia’s journey, Ms. Silver writes Lydia to be observant enough that we get to see the other characters’ own pain. This is especially important for Jonah, who lost his best friend as well. We get to see how Lydia’s family tries so hard to be supportive and how much that support costs them.
As for the pills, they’re simply a plot device. Why or how the pills work – whether her dreams are the product of her subconscious and the events happening there are her working through the grief in her own way – are not explained. And they don’t have to be. What’s important is the end result.
There are a few issues with the book, however. The novel spans almost two years so there are time skips, some of them pretty significant. Unfortunately, those skips coincide with character development, so there are times where there’s Telling and not a lot of Showing of character development. If you think the pacing is too abrupt, check the date at the start of every chapter.
As for the ending, it was too short to be truly satisfying. The build-up was excellent – though slightly too long – but the resolution was very abrupt. The same issue occurred with Ms. Silver’s previous book, Once Upon a December. An epilogue would have been a good addition.
Overall, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a book worth picking up if you’re in the mood for a good cry but with a hopeful ending.
This review first appeared in Fully Booked’s Blog section, under Book Reviews. The ARC was provided by Fully Booked.