From early in the story, A.L. Jackson’s Come to Me Quietly seems to be a solid illustration of the idea of love played out behind closed doors. Or it would, if it weren’t for the seriously damaged character, Jared, who returns to his childhood home town, showing you can never truly escape the outside world, regardless of how much a person might want to. Bouncing between the gradual build of the relationship between Aly and Jared and the slow revelation of what chased Jared out of Phoenix six years earlier, the novel works to highlight the difference between what many of us long for in love, that grand romantic dream, and what is truly real. But that’s not to say that there isn’t hope of a place where these two conditions can happily co-exist.
Jared is drawn back to the place where he grew up, but what drew him there even he can’t figure out. The list of possibilities could easily include acceptance, atonement, closure, all of the popular reasons. But who doesn’t even ring in as a contender is his former best friend’s little sister, Aleena. It doesn’t take long for Jared to reconcile with Christopher and for the latter to offer Jared a place to sleep, in the apartment he shares with Aly, until Jared can find his own accommodations. Neither the brother nor his childhood best friend are aware of the fact that Aly has been head over heels in love with Jared for as long as she remembers, and neither initially understands how quickly feelings can change as a result of this history. Jackson uses the intricacies of these relationships, adding further proof through flashbacks that show how Aly became so infatuated, to establish a basis for what will follow.
The changes in the girl he knew to the young woman she has become sparks a reaction in Jared almost immediately, and the two begin to develop a deeper friendship than they’d previously experienced. This morphs into something that Aly has always longed for and something Jared needs, but is too guilt ridden to accept for what it truly is.
“I knew I was the one who’d set this into play, had told her whatever was happening between us had to come to an end, even though whatever it was we labeled a friendship. Fools fell into those kinds of traps. We both knew it went so much deeper than friendship, even though that was why its foundation was so strong.”
With snapshots from the past, it’s evident that they’d always had a special kind of relationship, to the point that Jared’s mom had even predicted they would end up together. Aly opens her heart to the only boy who has ever mattered to her, though the nagging thought remains that he will probably leave again one day soon. Despite this threat, they seem to grow closer with each passing day, Aly pressing him a little more to open up and accept what she has to offer.
“Loving someone is one of the biggest chances we ever take. Maybe the most unfair part of it is that it’s rarely a conscious decision we’ve made. It’s something that blossoms slow or hits us hard, something that stirs and builds gradually, or something that shocks us with its sudden intensity. And sometimes it’s something that’s been a part of us our entire lives.
But almost always, it’s inevitable.”
The efforts Aly puts into Jared’s recovery and her projection of what she thinks he has always been capable of, still happens only behind those closed doors of her bedroom.
“I fought the urge to hug him, pictured myself inching forward, whispering in his ear that I’d share it with him if he’d let me.”
A bubble of those proportions is bound to be burst in one manner or another, and this holds true in Come to Me Quietly. They both blindly proceed, keeping the relationship hidden from even Christopher, which opens the way for feelings of betrayal between all of the roommates.
The impact on this secondary character is multiplied exponentially as a result of the effect Jared had already had on his life. While Jared had been struggling with his own actions and how they had played out within his family, the shock waves had travelled much further than he could have anticipated. Christopher had also been suffering from the loss of his childhood friend, finding himself unable to commit to meaningful relationships with women ever since. Jared, like many people, is so busy living inside his own head, he fails to see that what he believed to be the best solution, like leaving his home town, had very different implications for other people.
In the end, sometimes receiving forgiveness and understanding from someone else opens the door to those same things in ourselves. This is the potential Jared finds in his connection to Aly, but fighting his demons proves a difficult task for this young man who still sees the the wreckage of the past through the lens of the sixteen-year-old boy he once was. The task for Aly becomes about helping Jared see things differently and for Jared to accept that life isn’t necessarily limited to our own interpretations, nor can we use prior actions to completely define our future. There is a time and a place for regret but almost always, there is also the chance for redemption.
Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.