• Sara Bond

Pairings Project: YOU AND ME AND US by Alison Hammer

TLDR; YOU AND ME AND US is a hopeful story of death and family with characters that are real and honest and heartbreakingly vulnerable.



Sometimes I just want a book that is going to rip my heart into tiny little pieces and then slowly stitch me back together. YOU AND ME AND US by Alison Hammer did not disappoint. It’s a beautiful, tragic, but ever hopeful book about death, family, and motherhood, and I really enjoyed it.


YOU AND ME AND US is told in alternating viewpoint chapters by a mother, Alexis, and her daughter CeCe. Alexis is a hard-working advertising executive who has never really learned how to be a present and engaged mother, while CeCe is a young teenager, recently bitten by the acting bug and desperate for her parents to breakup so she can just get away from her mom. Alas for CeCe, though her dad Tommy and Alexis never actually got married, they are still head over heels in love with each other and are in it for the long haul.


That is, until Tommy reveals that he has advanced lung cancer, that he only has a few months to live, and that he wants to spend his last months with his family at the beach. Alexis and CeCe both balk at this idea, but for different reasons; Alexis wants more than anything for Tommy to fight to live and is willing to do anything to find the right treatment, while CeCe can’t bear the thought of both losing her dad and being trapped with the mother she can’t stand. Tommy’s wishes are respected, though, and the bulk of the story takes place in Destin, the beach where Tommy and Alexis first met, wooed, and fell in love. Tommy sets out to enjoy his final summer with his two girls, and they struggle just to get through it.


The tension of this book is incredible. There’s the ticking clock of Tommy’s illness as he completes a bucket list of final memories, but there’s also the gripping tension between Alexis and CeCe. They are both by turns sympathetic and utterly unlikeable. Their arguments swing between banal and petty and heartrendingly emotional. They both know it’s a matter of time before they are all they have left of their family, and yet, that doesn’t make it any easier for them to see eye to eye. Poor Tommy has played peacekeeper and mediator between these strong-willed, stubborn women for years, and now that he knows he’s going to leave them, he has to step back and let them learn to love each other without him.


At times, I struggled with my intense dislike of Alexis, but she is so vulnerable and raw throughout the story, that she soon became my favorite character. She really grows, if not into a model mother, at least into a sympathetic and flawed woman who is doing her best. She and CeCe progress from all out war against each other to an unsteady peace to understanding and conversation. It is a tribute to the author that these characters grow in such a believable way; they don’t miraculously become different people, but they work through their differences in a way that feels honest to who they are from the beginning. Their relationship is the heart of this book, and even at its most tragic moments, their potential gave me such hope.


The other highlight for me was the romance between Alexis and Tommy. They are obviously so in love with each other. Even when they have hard moments and disagree, they’re both approaching each other from a place of love and passion. I love the small moments between them as they grieve, celebrate, and cherish each other. And the big moments? Well, I won’t spoil them here, but I cried at some of the grand gestures they pull out in their most broken times.


YOU AND ME AND US is one of those books that will haunt your heart for days and weeks after you read it. It’s not an easy book, and it certainly doesn’t shy away from any of the hard truths about family, life and death, but it left me feeling lighter and more at peace, which is exactly what I needed.


TLDR; YOU AND ME AND US is a hopeful story of death and family with characters that are real and honest and heartbreakingly vulnerable.



COCKTAIL PAIRING: BOOZY ARNOLD PALMER



Picking a drink for YOU AND ME AND US was pretty easy. Author Alison Hammer actually did the hard work for me.


Throughout the book there’s reference to a traditional beach drink that the family loves. At her grandmother’s beach house, Alexis always makes sure there’s always a pitcher of Arnold Palmers in the fridge. It's nostalgic and a tradition Alexis has done her best to carry forward with her own family.


The classic half sweet tea and half lemonade drink goes through a few variations throughout the book. There’s the pitcher waiting for the family when they arrive, left by Alexis’s best friend. There’s the easy version Alexis makes with generic tea and lemonade from concentrate poured into the pitcher. There’s the sun-brewed tea that CeCe makes with fresh squeezed lemonade and bruised basil to enrich the taste.


Now I give you the cocktail version!



Boozy Arnold Palmer



Sweet tea vodka

Lemonade

Fresh rosemary


Combine one part sweet tea vodka for each part lemonade in a glass or pitcher. (Just you drinking? Go for one or two ounces sweet tea vodka to three to six ounces lemonade depending on the glass you want to use. Serving a group? Use cups!) Stir and chill. When ready to serve, pour over ice in a water glass or pint glass. Garnish with fresh rosemary.









Photos from NASA Image Collection and use of these images does not imply endorsement or recognition of my work by NASA or anyone associated with NASA.

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