My latest novel, The Last Summer, was a long time coming. The idea first came to me during my freshman year of college, and for some reason, these characters would never quite leave. They kept pestering me. And I kept going back to the story. Until, finally, with the help of lots of coffee and diet soda and occasional boxes of Junior Mints or Starbursts, The Last Summer came to be. It’s a story about friendship most of all—close friends navigating life and love during a season of change. But over the years, as I rewrote the novel, new themes found their way into the story. While the story is in no way about me or my personal experiences, there’s no doubt that the strong theme of grace woven throughout comes from my own understanding that we all have a desperate need for grace. There’s a line in the book where my main character’s mother tells her, “We’re a broken people. That’s why the story of redemption reaches us at our core.” Because every last one of us needs grace. And sometimes we’ll need to extend it to the people in our lives, and sometimes we’ll need it given to us. Because none of us are perfect.
I say things I wish I hadn’t. I make mistakes. I waste time. I get angry sometimes.
Do you know the feeling?
As much as I love my husband, the truth is that when my children were born, I began to know love on another level. Because whatever they do…I won’t stop loving them. They are mine. I’m theirs. My love for them is beyond me. And that fact gave me a tiny glimpse of how God loves us. And grace, to me, means He doesn’t stop loving me. Blunders and all. Imperfections and mistakes. His forgiveness is deep and wide. (And don’t worry, I do love my husband very much!)
In my own life, I’ve had moments of having to extend grace to people I care about, even when I didn’t think I could. And I’ve had moments of feeling God’s grace reach me when I knew I didn’t deserve it. These life experiences tend to taint the “happily ever after”—this fantasy of a perfect life where no one ever hurts anyone. And so, while rewriting The Last Summer for the final time, I knew I wanted to create flawed characters. In real life, there is no perfect heroine or perfect hero (regardless of how swoon-worthy!). I wanted characters who learned their own need for grace, and also the realization that we have to be willing to give it out. It’s not perfect, but when we are able to live under God’s grace, and extend grace and forgiveness to the people we love, I think that is a sort of “happily ever after.” Because we’re learning to love even when it’s difficult. We’re learning to accept God’s unconditional love for us, and maybe shed some of the guilt for past mistakes. As my main character, Sara, says, “We give grace because we’ve received it.”
Sometimes, when what we’re hoping for takes longer than we’d like, whether that’s a relationship or dream or life goal, eventually we look back over the time we spent waiting with a broader perspective. The Last Summer has been in my heart for years and years, it’s just now come to fruition. The years were worth waiting, because the story is finally what it was meant to be. It needed to come after some of my own difficult life experiences. Because that theme of grace—which was always there, maybe below the surface—needed to be developed and strengthened, as it had in my own life. Those polished characters needed a little less polish, to reflect all of us. And I hope with all my heart that the end result is a story worth mulling over, sighing over, and maybe even reaching for a second time.
Brandy Bruce is a mom, a wife, a book editor, an author, and someone who really loves dessert. She’s the author of the novels Looks Like Love, The Romano Family Collection, and award-winning The Last Summer. Having worked in the publishing industry for more than a decade, Brandy currently works as a freelance book editor, when she’s not writing novels! Brandy, her husband, and their children make their home in the beautiful state of Colorado. She’s very active online and she loves to hear from readers. Sign up for Brandy’s newsletter via her blog!
The Last Summer on Goodreads
Brandy is going to give away one e-book copy of The Last Summer! To be entered, leave a comment. She’ll draw a winner on the 27th and it’ll be announced in the Sunday Edition.