My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Oh My God! What a story! Where do I start?! I don’t even know if I can even express myself eloquently when it comes to BN Toler’s Where One Goes! When I started this book, I didn’t know what to expect. The author was a new-to-me but the blurb sounded so very intriguing that I had to read it. So glad that I did!
Have you ever wondered where a soul goes when it crosses over? Or, have you ever imagined yourself falling in love with two people, at the same time, when one of them is just waiting to crossover into that unknown?
Just as me and you, Charlotte has never imagined any of these things happening to her. She was a regular kid with a loving family of parents and an elder brother, going to school, then college, with the prospect of a better life... until one day, when everything changed in the blink of an eye. She just got in the same college as her brother, Axel; a brother who is as loving and supportive, who had never minded her trailing his shadows all through her childhood. Even in college he was her guardian angel. A drunken night and an accident take everything away from Charlotte, though she had no idea that Axel, who was with her, had passed away. How could she when, in her drug-induced, fevered dreams she saw her parents... and Axel, standing at her bedside, giving her the strength she needed to recover from the grave injury? Was she awake, had she dreamed of him? Charlotte couldn’t understand when she finally came to and learned of the passing of her beloved brother.
And then it all started...
Soon enough, Charlotte found out that in losing a part of her life, she’d gain something; a ‘gift’. A gift that she certainly can do without when Charlotte discovers she can now see the souls or ghosts of the people who are stuck in a limbo. Who are unable to crossover because of some unfinished business in the mortal world. And they need someone to see them, an ear to hear them out. No wonder Charlotte became the beacon of hope for them.
When it all started, Charlotte tried her best to ignore it. Her parents never believed her, thinking she’d gone nuts from the trauma. The visits to shrinks and all those high powered meds didn’t help. She was still seeing ghosts. Her life, as she knew it, was completely over. A curse that she couldn’t get rid of. Finally one day, not knowing how to ‘handle’ this situation, without even trying to understand what his daughter might be going through, Charlotte’s father gave up. With a lump sum of money, she was asked to ‘take a trip’. But Charlotte knew what it meant. They wanted her out of their life and relieve them of all the complications, the embarrassments they felt about her. I couldn’t believe it, though I tried understanding her parents’ side of the story. It must not have been easy as they couldn’t connect with her in any level. But asking her to leave was simply cruel!
With that money and Axel’s car as her only companion, Charlotte left her hometown without any particular destination in mind. For the next few yrs. all she had done was to help the ghosts who reached out to her. They appear to Charlotte like any of us, thankfully not in the state when they passed away, which makes it a bit bearable I guess. She can’t touch them but can hear them clearly. This story is told from dual POV but I never got confused. One of the POVs were of Charlotte’s, the other was of Ike, whom we meet soon enough.
Years on the road, without much of a life and any hope, Charlotte was on the verge of a breakdown. She wanted out. She wanted to be normal. She simply wanted her ‘life’ back but knew it was impossible. Unable to become comfortable with her ‘gift’, Charlotte decides to help one last soul; a girl who was murdered some months ago, though her body has never been found. She’s still on the missing persons list, so her parents are holding on a thin ray of hope. This girl, Cassie, wanted her body to be found so that everyone finally learns of the truth. Hence, she sought out Charlotte, which is also were the story begins. It was a distressing scene, with Charlotte trying to find Cassie’s decomposed body under a bridge on a rainy night before filing an anonymous report. But what made it more chilling was the fact that right after that, we learn that Charlotte is going to commit suicide!
But there was her new guardian angel waiting to save Charlotte from making that colossal mistake. Ike McDarmott, another soul stuck in limbo just happened to have wondered far from his visiting place. Some months ago, he was killed in action in the war. Ike had a great life with a pair of very loving and supportive parents. He also has a twin brother, George, and an adoptive younger brother, Cameron. He should’ve been able to move on but for George. His twin is taking his passing very hard, so much so that he’s hell-bent on destroying himself by taking drugs and hooking up with sluts that sell the same to him. Twins do share a special bond, and when that bond is broken so suddenly, things turn into an upheaval. Ike is very worried, and without knowing how to help him, he has been unable to move on.
While Ike was walking down that same bridge, he spies on Charlotte about to jump into the water and screamed at her out of habit, even knowing she can’t hear or see him. But he finds himself amazed, and full of hope for the first time in so many months, when her grumpy answer reaches him in the form of something like ‘go away’. :) You can’t imagine how my feelings as Ike becomes tremendously happy to finally have found someone who can actually see and hear him! He manages to convince her to not to jump. Charlotte, of course, knew that he’s been around for a reason and asks him directly about it. But first she needs to find a place to stay and get comfy. Thankfully, Ike helps her out with a destination; Warm Springs, a small-town nearby where he was born and raised. Where his family still resides.
Charlotte noticed how handsome Ike was on spot, just as Ike found her petit, dark looks beautiful. Ike was tall and broad shouldered with a soldier’s body. His gorgeous brown eyes and that ever present smile would melt any girl with a heart. And God, his sense of humor is so infectious, he can make anyone laugh! Charlotte needed that distraction, a savior to help her through those dark days. Ike served as both. For the first time, she begins to think that maybe seeing dead people isn’t a curse after all. Ike is amazing, and Charlotte loves communicating with him. Trust me, you’d LOVE him when you read their conversations and his POV in the story. Ike is any girl’s dream come true. He’s there with Charlotte, either trying to cheer her up with a joke or two or talk to her about his family, and the reason why he’s still here. He wants Charlotte to get to George somehow and drag him out of that abyss he’s so determined to jump into. She didn’t know if she can do it but Charlotte would try for Ike’s sake.
Charlotte finds help from a kind elderly couple, The Mercers. With Mr. Mercer’s help, she even finds a place at a nearby motel, the generous landlady willing to give her a place to stay. But Charlotte is determined to earn her stay or at the least pay for it, which is how, a few days later on Ike’s encouragement, she finds herself in front of Ike and George’s, a restaurant that was jointly run by the brothers. She was hoping for a waitress job, until she finally meets a grumpy George and was struck dumb. Ike... umm, did leave out one tiny information. He never mentioned that George was his identical twin. Imagine Charlotte’s surprise! Though George is much thinner and less broad than Ike, he’s no less handsome. His eyes are darker than Ike’s too but they’re shadowed by pain and the stress, with a veil of the poison he’s been taking off late.
Unsurprisingly, George and Charlotte don’t start out on a positive note. He’s a jerk to her in the beginning. Charlotte also meets the b!tch Ike told her about; a waitress in their restaurant, who has been sleeping with him, and selling him the drugs. She’s definitely not impressed knowing that the girl is engaged to someone else. I wasn’t impressed either but George was a mess to be sure and needed rescuing, especially from the tentacles of that girl. Charlotte knew she has her work cut out where he was concerned but again, she’d try whatever she can for Ike. She was already falling in love with this small-town and the kind people who reside here. Charlotte couldn’t believe the type of amazing people she’d met so far, and she’s not giving up so easily. Not anymore!
In the next scenes, you’ll find some funny, heartwarming conversations between Ike and Charlotte, then Charlotte and George’s not-so-funny conversations as well. Personality-wise, the brothers were as different as they come, yet to the core, they were warm and genuinely good. If Ike was the gentleman, George was the rebel. With Ike, Charlotte had this comfy, BFF type of relationship where the chemistry between them was a slow burn. But with George, it was more in-your-face, i-hate-to-love-you-love-to-hate-you kind. On one moment, it seemed they’d bite each-other’s heads off, the next it felt they’d jump each-other. The chemistry was crackling too. I would’ve loved it more had it not been for the continuous presence of that girl. I could only applaud when I found Charlotte had plans to get rid of her.
On her sojourn, Charlotte becomes a bit popular among the small-town community, especially her good looks did bring men around, and more often than not Charlotte would find George glaring at her when that happened. Was he jealous? Oh boy, she didn’t even want to contemplate on that score! Life is complicated for her as it is. What she still didn’t know that George wasn’t proud of the life he’d led since Ike’s death and that, somewhere deep inside, he wanted to change. In the course of the story, Charlotte meets new people, including Ike’s buddy from the army, Sniper and another waitress, Anna. On the get go, Sniper would give you the impression of a happy-go-lucky manwhore who wants nothing more than a good time. He even tries to work his ‘charm’ on Charlotte and my utter delight, got rebuffed with good-natured eyerolls. But Sniper was much more than that as we later find out later. He becomes Charlotte’s protector, proving that, no matter what, he stays true to the people he cares for.
Gradually, Charlotte begins finding sure footing with George, who begins showing flashes of those good sides that Ike told her was hidden way beneath his gruff exterior. They forged this unlikely companionship overtime. When, one day, Mrs. McDermott stops by at the restaurant, Charlotte is even invited at their home, where meets Mr. McDermott and Cameron, the hilarious younger brother. Charlotte likes them instantly, and finds solace in the fact that Ike is there sharing these moments with her. She’d like to scream out loud and tell them the ‘secret’ she’s been hiding, but Charlotte didn’t know if she’d survive if these kind people also reject her as a weirdo and mentally unstable.
But with George, Charlotte was also walking on a fragile, uncharted territory. At one point, when she tries to intervene into his darkness, he got angry, suspicious and they had this fight. It riles up Ike too, though Charlotte knew it was already too late. Her plan of getting rid of that girl goes awry when the boyfriend beats George up. Charlotte begins feeling guilty. She could’ve avoided this disaster because she knew it to be a possibility. But mostly, she was dreading hurting Ike. It also told her that she’d done something she should never have; falling in love with a ghost. With whom she has no future to speak of. Hell, they won’t even have a chance, not in this lifetime! Ike would soon crossover, what then? How will she live without him nearby, his smiles, his jokes and those insane urges to kiss him senseless? From Ike’s POV, it was already apparent that he was crazy in love with Charlotte. It was eating him inside out that he can’t do anything about it, not even touch her a little. But Ike wanted with all his heart that she makes someone else happy. And if he’s going to have to share her with anyone, then it should be George. He knew she’d do him good.
Nevertheless, Ike is rather mad at Charlotte after George got beat up. But that incident does create an intervention. George finally begins realizing just how close he to destroy his life. Was he going to put his parents through that pain again? But mostly, he felt mortified that Charlotte’s first impression of him was so... disgraceful. At last, George reaches out for help and finds it hard to believe that she cares. Charlotte, to her surprise, also discovers that maybe she can love George too. In a whole different way than her feelings for Ike, but she definitely wants to be his savior... and more. If that made her odd and crazy, she didn’t care. So, as the first step, she spells out to George that no more drugs and definitely no more of girls who are no good for him.
At that point in the story, Cassie’s case turns up, it seem, to haunt Charlotte again. Cassie may have crossed over but Charlotte did something (and I noticed it) while filing for that anonymous report, that helped the police track back to her. But then, at that time, Charlotte thought she won’t be around to follow up. Oh but how wrong she was! When the police begins sniffing about, George becomes restless, his protectiveness of Charlotte apparent. A shift in their relationship was evident and very much accepted from both sides. Yet, Charlotte finds herself unburdening to Sniper, the first person in Warm Springs to learn of her secret and accept it wholeheartedly. If I found Ike and Charlotte’s conversation emotional, especially when they figured they’re in love, Ike and Sniper’s conversation with Charlotte’s help just broke my heart. I simply didn’t know how I’d handle when he finally gets to talk to George.
From an unexpected, prior conversation, George found out about Charlotte’s terrible experience and Axel’s passing that pretty much broke her. And with that, he found a kindred soul. Now George knew just how much Charlotte understood what he’s going through. The good, bad and the ugly is what they promised. As George’s withdrawal finally takes hold, this time Charlotte is there to help him get through this. They’ve already forged a bond, a few kisses to seal it with, though Charlotte still wasn’t sure if George would return her affection. If he doesn’t, and after Ike leaves, what would happen to her? How would she survive the loss of 2 men, one after another, that she’d come to love? But she still soldiers on, determined to finish her job. It’d broke her heart, but Ike would have to move on...
But things began going downhill from there as Charlotte’s father shows up. Since police was on her already, it was pretty easy. Thankfully, Charlotte found the McDermott family by her side in this chaos. As a lawyer, Mr. McDermott’s support was unconditional but she had to make up a story so that her secret remains safe. But for how long? Time is running out and sooner or later, she has to confess.
In the end, after the stress of George’s withdrawal and her father’s sudden appearance, Charlotte decides it’s time that the family knew before he concocted some story to ruin the life she’d forged for herself here. Ike wholeheartedly agreed. Even though the family takes the news in stride, it’s George who takes it hard. He’s angry and in denial, fearing the effect of Charlotte’s confession, if any of it is true that is. Oh, talk about more heartbreak, and tears! My heart was literally breaking for them, with them. Then there was the fact that Ike would soon leave... I can only tell you my tears were flowing freely.
Ike’s departure from this earth once and for all had no big drama or climax. No, there was no elaborate description of where he went either. Guess no one knows that for a fact, yet I’ve been dreading that moment much like Charlotte for the whole story because everything led down to that one intricate moment. And when it happened......... I can’t even explain how sad and depressing it was. I read that scene a couple of times and felt as miserable as I’ve never been. Before I could recover, I was struck again when I saw a picture of Ike’s dog tag. It hurt so much just to look at it.
Ike was my favorite of the two brothers, though to be fair to George, he managed to win a spot in my heart as well. Mostly because he tried his best to change himself to be worthy of Charlotte. After the initial shock of her revelation passed, he took Charlotte in just as she was, giving her a permanent home in Warm Springs. No judgments or questions asked. Likewise, there was no question in my mind about the love these three individuals shared, even if it was for a short while. Even if one of them was dead. I sorely missed George’s POV in the story, which probably would’ve made me understand him a bit better. Also, he and Ike never really said goodbye to each-other through Charlotte, but there was one, which showed George’s acceptance of Charlotte’s gift.
I’d like to thank BN Toler for such a well-written and wonderful, heartwarming as well as heart-wrenching story. I can honestly say that I haven’t read a story like Where One Goes ever before. It’d stay in my heart for a long time to come. 5 stars. I’d recommend this beautiful story in a heartbeat. Read it NOW, then tell me you hadn’t shed a single tear.