Title: Heaven Should Fall by Rebecca Coleman
Genre: Contemporary, Literary, Fiction
Length: 355 pages
Book Rating: B+
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
Alone since her mother’s death, Jill Wagner wants to eat, sleep and breathe Cade Olmstead when he bursts upon her life—golden, handsome and ambitious. Even putting college on hold feels like a minor sacrifice when she discovers she’s pregnant with Cade’s baby. But it won’t be the last sacrifice she’ll have to make.
Retreating to the Olmsteads’ New England farm seems sensible, if not ideal—they’ll regroup and welcome the baby, surrounded by Cade’s family. But the remote, ramshackle place already feels crowded. Cade’s mother tends to his ailing father, while Cade’s pious sister, her bigoted husband and their rowdy sons overrun the house. Only Cade’s brother, Elias, a combat veteran with a damaged spirit, gives Jill an ally amidst the chaos, along with a glimpse into his disturbing childhood. But his burden is heavy, and she alone cannot kindle his will to live.
The tragedy of Elias is like a killing frost, withering Cade in particular, transforming his idealism into bitterness and paranoia. Taking solace in caring for her newborn son, Jill looks up to find her golden boy is gone. In Cade’s place is a desperate man willing to endanger them all in the name of vengeance…unless Jill can find a way out.
Heaven Should Fall is an absolutely riveting novel about lives slowly spiraling out of control following a family tragedy. Rebecca Coleman makes it clear from the book’s beginning and some well placed foreshadowing what direction this tragic story is eventually going to go. What remains to be seen is why and what catalyst will influence the characters’ decisions.
Heaven Should Fall begins hopefully enough with the return of Cade Olmstead’s brother, Elias, from the war in Afghanistan. Cade and his girlfriend, Jill Wagner, are deeply, passionately in love and their futures are bright. Her unexpected pregnancy is viewed as a slight detour in their lives. Their plan is simple-stay at Cade’s family home over the summer until their baby’s birth, then return to college in the fall. But financial strain, a delayed return to school, medical bills and a family tragedy slowly and irrevocably change Cade into the man he never wanted to become and a devastating plan is set in motion that will surely destroy Cade and those that he so dearly loves.
Jill Wagner is a level-headed young woman with a great deal of common sense. Growing up with a recovering alcoholic who is quite active in Alcoholic Anonymous, Jill is quick to recognize destructive patterns in others. She is a strong believer in therapy and asking for help when needed. She is out of her element in Cade’s home but she connects quickly with various members of his family.
Cade is the youngest of the three Olmstead children. Cade’s family life is far from perfect and he is desperate to escape his childhood home. His father is physically and emotionally abusive, and he is quick to confront anyone who crosses him. Cade does not want to be anything like his father, and his ambitions are his ticket to a better life far away from his family. Cade is successful and well-liked, but he has a darker side that surfaces when his life begins to devolve as he sinks into paranoia and plans to seek revenge for all his perceived wrongs.
There are several secondary characters that figure prominently in Heaven Should Fall’s storyline. Cade’s brother Elias’s transition from soldier to civilian is difficult as he deals with both the physical and mental wounds from war. Suffering from PTSD, he self-medicates with alcohol and he struggles with depression. His attempts to receive care from the VA are practically useless and he falls deeper and deeper into despair.
Cade’s mother Leela is quite stoic and in hindsight, she clearly sees where mistakes were made with her children. His sister Candy is a fundamentalist Christian who regularly preaches religious rhetoric. Her much older husband Dodge is anti-government and pro militia. They actively indoctrinate their offspring with their beliefs and the scenes between them and their children are downright chilling.
Cade’s need for revenge allows a slow and insidious perversion of his long-held beliefs. He becomes easy to manipulate and even though he recognizes events have escalated out of his control, he finds it easy to rationalize the decisions he is making. Jill is aware of the changes in Cade, but her concern for her child affects her decision to stay with Cade despite her ever growing fear of what Cade is becoming capable of doing.
Heaven Should Fall is a riveting novel that provides amazing insight into a segment of society that is often shrouded in secrecy. Rebecca Coleman demonstrates how a once promising future can easily be derailed by a series of setbacks and heartbreaking loss in this finely crafted story of twisted family loyalty and radical beliefs.