5,331 Miles by Willow Aster ~ Sarah A’s Review

We spent a lifetime chasing firefly dreams

Jaxson and I devised a life list when we were kids in Holmes Chapel. Just a few things on that list:

*Climb the Eiffel Tower.
*Visit every zoo in the world.
*Eat peanut butter every day.

But all the promises he made dissolved into dust, so when he comes around years later wanting to go live out our list, I want no part of it…or him. The universe seems to agree with me because everything we try is a disaster.

The heart though—it’s a tricky beast; I’m just not sure mine is strong enough to survive Jaxson one more time.

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5,331 Miles didn’t come together until the last minute, and because of that format, it was hard to know if I liked the characters – or could forgive them – until the book was almost complete.  The way Willow Aster contrasted her timelines and made the past and present weave together was interesting, often frustrating, but the only way to tell this story and make me still love both Mirabelle and Jaxson.

For a good portion of 5,331 Miles, I found Mirabelle (Mira, Bells) frustrating as all get out.  I didn’t understand why she was so angry with Jaxson or why, when he was doing everything he could to prove his love and devotion to her, she refused to forgive him.  When I finally knew all of the things he’d done to her, all the things she’d been through, it was hard to see how she could put it all in the past.  I was exceedingly happy she took the time she needed to heal and find herself before she made any rash decisions about her future.  I don’t think she – or the readers – had any idea how much pain she’d been carrying around until she had space and safety to sift through all that emotional baggage.

I loved Jaxson from the off, then, little by little, he got more and more infuriating to me.  He’d been an awful friend for a long time while Bells desperately needed unconditional love and support, and it was hard to reconcile that self-absorbed teenager with the kind and loving man we knew him to be in the present.  As much as I appreciated how hard he tried to prove he’d changed from that awful boy, I felt like Jaxson was attempting to erase the past rather than make amends for it and it was a little frustrating.  I wish he would have done more to show her he knew how wrong he was in those actions from their past.

5,331 Miles was a much deeper story than I had anticipated.  Even into the final chapters of the book, it didn’t occur to me all of the trauma Mirabelle had encountered in her short life.  When it was all laid out, my heart broke for her.  Jaxson had done wonders to prove his love to her, but she had to work on herself before she could even think about loving another person.  Though 5,331 Miles was chock-full of romantic gestures, the most beautiful part of the story was when Mira took the time to let herself heal.  This was a beautiful book, and I am quite happy to have read and experienced Mirabelle and Jaxson’s tumultuous love story.

It was there all the time,
A love so pure, and so alive,
Went to hell and still survived
5,331 Miles

I grab a sweater before the song has finished playing and rush out of my flat, Winston’s ears flapping as he runs next to me. I open the door to my building and Jaxson is there in the parking lot, leaning against a car.

He doesn’t smile when he sees me. He looks like a tragic figure, devastatingly handsome and stoic; he puts his hands in his pockets and watches me get closer and closer.

When I’ve almost reached him, the car next to him starts and I gasp. It’s my dad. He smirks and gives me a brisk wave before backing up, not waiting around to see what happens.

I stop when my feet bump into Jaxson’s. He reaches out and wipes a tear from my cheek.

“Jaxson.” It comes out as a sob, and I lean my head onto his chest.

His arms circle around me, making me instantly feel better. Home. One of his hands moves to my hair and he gives it a soft tug, forcing me to look up at him.

“I don’t care where we are. I just want to be where you are,” he says. “Do you believe me yet? And does it matter?”

Tears fall down both of my cheeks and his thumbs catch them. “It matters,” I tell him. “It means everything.”

“You say the word and I will move heaven and earth to be with you. Nothing will come between us.”

And this time, for maybe the first time since my tenth birthday, I believe him.

“I’m done running,” I say.

His mouth crashes into mine, claiming what I’ve held back from him for so long.  

“Come inside,” I whisper against his lips.

Willow Aster is the author of True Love Story, In the Fields, Maybe Maby, Fade to Red, and the upcoming release, Whore. Willow loves nothing more than writing the day away—anywhere will do. Her husband and two children graciously put up with her endless daydreaming and make fun of her for reading while cooking.

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