Cross-Smith’s new novel brings attention to mental health

By Cynthia Solis

It is a no-brainer why Elle magazine deemed, “This Close to Okay” by Leesa Cross-Smith, “One of the most anticipated books of 2021.” 

 “This Close to Okay” is a novel that explores fragility, grief and the effects of mental illness on two broken people who find love again.

 Tallie Clark is a divorced, childless therapist who encounters a man about to jump off a bridge. She pulls over and begins to talk to him to try and talk him down. She is eventually successful and invites him for a cup of coffee at her favorite coffee shop. 

 They both quickly agree that they will not have any small talk, and although the man barely reveals his name, Emmett, he doesn’t say much else. 

This doesn’t stop Tallie from inviting him to her home in an attempt to provide a safe space for him. Emmett ends up spending the night. 

 Throughout the emotionally-charged weekend, they reveal their deepest feelings- each other’s divorces, deaths, infidelities, and heartaches that have shaped the people they are today. 

 Interestingly, although they share such heavy stories, they neglect to share the fact that Tallie is a therapist for a living. Emmett emails Tallie’s ex-husband in an attempt to get her the answers he thinks she needs. 

 Although Tallie is enthusiastic about trying to help Emmett heal from his past traumas, she doesn’t realize he’s not the only one who needs healing. 

This can be seen with how insecure she felt about her ex-husband leaving her and having a baby with his mistress. Tallie still logs into her ex-husband’s social media accounts to cyber-stalk his new wife and essentially look at the life he wanted, but she could not give him. 

 The novel alternates between Tallie and Emmett’s perspectives as they inch closer to why Emmett went to the bridge that rainy October evening and other identity-revealing stories. 

 Tallie refers to danger as a “frothing aphrodisiac,” which allows the readers to understand why she placed so much trust in a stranger, knowing it could have ended poorly. 

However, it goes to show how positive Tallie tries to be. Overall, the two characters fail or learn to cope with sorrow and depression. 

 Cross-Smith places mental health at the heart of this story, bringing attention to the importance of asking for help when navigating the complicated twists and turns of life. 

“This Close to Okay “is a very fast-moving, drama-filled roller coaster that keeps you guessing the whole time as they sort through their fears and disappointments. 

It is very dark and tense, yet flirty and humorous making it a great book, full of surprises. 

 All that being said, there are some flaws with the character Tallie. Tallie can be seen as nosy with how she stole Emmett’s notes and consistently tried to analyze Emmett as a patient rather than a potential friend. 

She broke many professional boundaries by giving him a very subtle form of therapy. Although he gets her back, by emailing her ex-husband posing to be her, Tallie should have known better as a practicing therapist. 

Either way, both characters are developed nicely throughout the novel. 

Cross-Smith portrays mental illness and not being okay beautifully, while encouraging its readers to understand that it is okay not to be okay as long as you find someone to talk to.

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