Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “It was awkward dealing with people who had emotional attachments to him that he didn’t even know how to return them.”
Leith Wentz, an amateur boxer, wakes up after a championship fight only to discover an illegal blow to his head has resulted in him losing his memories for the last three years. Struggling to cope with his new reality, Leith deals with some painful memories concerning his family and friends. His brother Arthur and numerous friends tries to fill in the blank spots, but it’s only when Zach arrives does Leith finally feel safe and secure.
Zach is utterly heartbroken by Leith’s retrograde amnesia. As he and Leith met and started dating during the forgotten three years, Leith has no knowledge of Zach or their relationship. As Zach tries to be there for Leith, not pushing as the doctors have ordered, he finds himself pouring out his grief and anger into a series of vlog posts. When a moment of indiscretion comes back to haunt them, Leith must decide if the past is as important as what is right in front of him.
The River Leith is a solemn retrospective story of an amnesia patient as told from the patient’s point of view. Reading it brings an array of emotions-sadness, hope, anger, and happiness. We see the effects of his injuries on not only himself but on those who care about him. I honestly couldn’t even begin to imagine how scary and confusing it would be to wake up to black holes in your memory. To see people who expect you to know them and you don’t. They are complete strangers to you. To have them tell you aspects of your life and you have no idea what they are talking about.
I found Leith’s reactions spot on as he essentially has to relearn the last three years of his life and struggles to try to move forward. His anger, confusion, and sorrow are heart wrenching and poignant. He is unsure how to move forward when he can’t remember the past. He wrestles with his identity and the loss of it in his eyes. Blake does a wonderful job of allowing us to experience Leith’s journey through his own words.
I enjoyed meeting Leith’s hodge podge family of sorts. His brother Arthur, his room mates Ava and Marian, and of course, his boyfriend Zach. None of them would tell Leith the complete truth in their visits and gentle manipulations of his memories. All of them agreed that he needed to remember on his own but they also feared hurting Zach anymore than he already is. While I understood their caution, I did feel at times they were lying to him by omission. Especially Zach. Zach with his vlogs and frequent thoughts about running away irritated me. I understood his fear and hurt but at times it seemed all he thought about was how all this affected him. How hurt and scared he was. He was so scared Leith would never remember him, he does things unconsciously to punish Leith for his accident. In fact, Zach does one thing that angered me but out of everything he did, that was one of the few real reactions I felt from him.
The romance, of course, is extremely slow to build as Leith and Zach need to get to know each other all over again. But the heart knows what the heart wants and their journey back to the familiar is sweet and super sexy. There are some wonderful physical scenes that cement the feeling that these two men would always find one another no matter the cause for their separation.
The conclusion is filled with angst and dread as circumstances push Leith towards facing his fears. This allows for Leith to clear up some misconceptions he had and let go of the past he has been so trying so hard to remember. We learn more about his childhood which explains some of his actions in the present. We are given a positive ending and assured that Leith and Zach has a good chance at a happy future. I do want to add that though the medical aspects of retrograde amnesia are glossed over in here, Blake does offer a post note at the end explaining her reasons for choosing that route.