Ready, Sarah. Josh and Gemma the Second Time Around. Swift & Lewis, 2023. 352 pp. ISBN 9781954007437 $15.99
Josh and Gemma made a baby, and now they are about to get married. Gemma hasn’t been feeling well for days, but chalked it up to excitement and nerves. Apparently their hippie-dippie hypo-birthing class instructor–who in a moment of getting real has the foresight to warn the assembled couples that everything is going to change–fails to mention warning signs of pre-eclampsia. Gemma passes out in the new gazebo in her parent’s backyard on the verge of saying her vows. Josh’s voice begging her not to leave him is the last thing she hears. She comes to three months later.
After her sensory-deprivation coma, Gemma is super-sensitive to sound, light, and people. Her short-term memory is shot and she can no longer multitask. Down 30 pounds, she’s lost her bangin’ curves–and her ability to feel emotion. According to her doctor, that’s not abnormal, and while some things lost may return over time, here’s another reminder that everything changes, and she should prepare for a new normal. The medical details and recovery are accurate.
Oh, and Gemma’s never even met her daughter Hope. It’s a lot to bounce back from. Josh, on location for the filming of the sitcom based on his popular webcomic Grim and Jewlie (based on their relationship), isn’t even on the same coast when she opens her eyes, and his relief is tempered by her admission she doesn’t think she loves him anymore. She doesn’t feel anything. He’s determined to make it work, and while it’s what Gemma wants too, there’s a lot of fear, and a lot of doubt from friends and family that their relationship could continue. To complicate matters, her old boss Ian, who is now the most hated man in America, shows up in her rehabilitation center, where he claims to be a volunteer, now that’s he’s out of a job. He is a self-centered jerk, and must have been so much fun to write; it’s certainly a joy disliking him, but like all of the characters, he, too, is multi-faceted.
Gemma’s description of glimpses of the light she’s lost, the stars that shine through, and her journey to find the sun again is damn poetic. I found a few issues, like repetitive descriptions and word usages, that closer editing might have caught. The drama high but realistic: I wasn’t sure they would actually make it through, and I wasn’t sure that Ian wasn’t a figment of Gemma’s imagination at first (honestly, I was hoping the whole thing was just another stress-induced nightmare.)
Ready writes with both dark humor and optimism, a healthy dose of realism and a lot of hope (and not quite enough Hope!). Gemma works through her trauma, and helps heal Josh’s and Ian’s as well. Like in the first book, quotes precede each chapter. This is an incredibly satisfying sequel that I devoured in one sitting.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #JoshAndGemmaTheSecondTimeAround from #NetGalley.