*Thank you to Simon and Schuster, Laura Bambrey and Sarah-Jade for my copy of this book*
Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.
When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).
From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t. Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .
The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is a stunning story of facing your fears, soul searching and allowing yourself to be a part of a community that is far out of your comfort zone. This story spoke so boldly to me and I resonated with the main character more than I had believed I would when going in to this book. Tori is such a relatable and admirable character, who I saw way too much of myself in at times and although I felt so much anxiety coming off of myself to see a woman step out of her comfort zone and in to a whole new world the way Tori did, I thoroughly enjoyed walking through this healing journey alongside her. There was so much depth to Tori’s character, beside her joining the retreat to share with her blog followers; we discover she has a lot of underlying pain and guilt consuming her, that has a major impact on the closed-off person she has become. She lives a very basic life, with three internet friends to confide in, never grasping for anything more, because she has pushed so many people away, she has convinced herself that she doesn’t deserve the friendship of others – the wellness retreat may not have been the getaway she was expecting, but she definitely comes out of it with a strong head on her shoulders, a much wider outlook on the world and a great set of people by her side.
Ted and Lizzie’s wellness retreat sounded like a getaway we should all be clawing to get involved in – they provided their guests with challenging activities, impactful therapy sessions, plenty of laughter and new-found friendships. With it’s peaceful and serene surroundings, there really couldn’t be a more perfect place to confide in when on the journey to self-discovery. The additional characters were all just the most wonderful bunch, who caused for some humorous and intimate moments, allowing Tori to slowly let down the wall she had been building up and become more forthcoming with the retreat and the pain deep within her. I especially loved the friendship between Tori and Doreen, it was so pure and heart-warming to read about, the two being each other’s confidant’s when it come to the more challenging of days. What really allowed Tori to open her heart and mind to the retreat, was seeing so many other troubled souls seeking the same respite as herself and when she finally realised she wasn’t alone in this, she really give it her all and shined brighter than she ever had.
There was one character in particular, who didn’t want Tori to have the peaceful retreat she was looking forward to and he brought an extremely deep and twisted story-line to the pages. As far as first impressions go, I thought Than was going to be a really fun character, who was going to encourage Tori to loosen up and be the person to bring her out of her shell… however, he turned out to be an extremely complex addition and an unlikeable one at that. There was more times than there should have been where Than talks down to Tori and the others, as well as the retreat itself. He was malicious and controlling towards Tori especially and seemed to have this obsession with only ever spending time with her and although it is an important skill to see the good in everyone, it was frustrating at times to see Tori defend such a vindictive man. Laura really put a spin on Than’s story and I was definitely blindsided with the outcome, although a very important one to address – it was manipulative, it was twisted and it was disturbing. That all being said, Than’s awful ways ended up having an extreme impact on Tori’s journey to soul searching and with the help of her new wonderful friends, Tori was able to close that chapter and still get something out of it for herself.
I have to save the charming and handsome, Bay, for last, as he was exactly the type of soul searching Tori never knew she needed. The interactions between Tori and Bay were very sweet and also very intense – there was this unspeakable connection between the two of them throughout and they shared some really beautiful moments together. My most favourite being the rain scene. Their bonding didn’t come without it’s misjudgements, miscommunication and secrets, but they were at the perfect place to conquer all of that and with the help of Bay’s dog, Dennis, they had all the opportunities to work together and see what could be. I would have liked to have seen even more moments between Tori and Bay, however, Than was never not there and this caused a lot of barriers between the two getting to know each other better at an earlier stage.
Tori’s evolution throughout this story was absolutely inspiring, as we witnessed her grow to become the brave and bold woman she was meant to be. She had a lot of challenges to face and faced them with everything she had within her. She had lived a much too lonely life before joining the retreat and now was her time to come out feeling fulfilled and most definitely, not lonely. Whilst I would have loved to have the seen the motives behind Than’s devious plan, I was really satisfied with the story Laura had shared with us and am most grateful to have been able to read it and be a part of this blog tour. My most favourite part about this entire book was the quotes that were shared upon each chapter beginning – I couldn’t have picked up this book at a more perfect time in my life, where I needed that little bit of guidance and Laura provided that within these quotes. They really spoke out to me and allowed me to also take a wider step in to the world. I look forward to seeing what Laura has in store for us next.