Erryn and Marc review ‘Switched’ by N.R. Walker. This book was released by the author on January 1st, 2017 and is about 260 pgs long. The audiobook version of this story was narrated by Joel Leslie, released by Tantor Audio on September 20th, 2017 and is 8 hrs and 50 mins long.
Why I read this book:
[Erryn] N.R. Walker writes emotionally impactful stories and this one sounded like it would match her talent.
[Marc| I love N.R. Walker’s books. Especially the Red Dirt Heart series. When I first saw this audiobook, though, I drew the wrong conclusion. The black-and-white cover art reminded me of BDSM book covers and ‘Switched’ did not make me think about ‘switched at birth’ but about a switch in a BDSM scene. A person who can take the active or passive role in a scene. Since I do not read that much BDSM and, though I have read amazing BDSM books, it is outside of my comfort zone, I thought I would pass on this book and never made it to the blurb. Then about two weeks later, one of my fellow reviewers was thinking about getting this audio and posted the blurb into our group chat, asking if one of us had read it. The blurb directly grabbed me and I got the audiobook that very night.
When you know you are adopted, there is a weird dichotomy in your life. On the one hand, you are grateful to the family who adopted you, on the other hand, you wonder why your biological parents couldn’t keep you. You are (hopefully) loved and secure with your new family, but the questions may stay on the backburner.
There is one more thing – the randomness of the adoption process. For most people, if their parents hadn’t met, they wouldn’t exist. Adopted children don’t have that odd thought. Instead there’s a weird understanding they could have just as easily wound up with another couple – and another life. It is a weird reality to live with.
So Israel Ingram’s life-altering news that he was switched at birth meets with the realization he wasn’t meant to live the life he’s been living and the people who are his parents aren’t genetically related to him. Talk about having all security yanked away – except to him, it provides answers. Being fortunate enough to have his amazing friend Sam, Israel embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
Is he a product of his upbringing (nurture) or are his biological mother and siblings the answer to the puzzle of who he is (nature)? There are many people who stand to lose in this scenario – or it could be the beginning of something wonderful. N.R. Walker masterfully keeps the reader guessing because she understands life doesn’t follow a set script.
The one constant is the steady hand of support Sam provides Israel. Is their love a natural by-product of the stressful situation Israel was in or would these men have come together in the end anyway? Israel’s unhappiness with his life means that this question is not easily answered. If you never feel good enough about yourself because of your parents, how do you cope? If you don’t love yourself, how can you believe someone would love you for yourself?
As you can probably tell, I was deeply affected by Switched. My situation is different than Israel’s, but there are enough similarities to make it raw for me. I laughed, I definitely cried, and I desperately hoped Israel would find peace of mind. Having Sam there meant everything and although I haven’t spoken a lot about him, he’s just…a rock. And when I met my biological mother, I felt like I had finally found people who were just like me. I was one of the lucky ones.
Finally, I have to mention the amazing Joel Leslie. He is a gifted narrator who brings heart to the story. His narration always touches my soul and this was just another example of his talent.
10/10 Points of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Israel is a successful business man who is very good at his job and likes his work. He has a lot of money and a handful of very good friends. However, he is not really happy. He’s never had a meaningful romantic relationship in his life with any guy and he and his parents aren’t close. His father told him point blank what a disappointment he is and the fact that Israel is gay didn’t help things. Israel’s father might have taught him all about being a shark in business, but that is pretty much the only place where they ever exchange a word. His mom seems cold and disinterested in him. His life just seems a bit empty and he does seem to feel that as well, but does not know how to change it.
So when Israel and his parents are called into a meeting, only to be told by a lawyer that Israel was changed at birth and they are not related by blood, it changes everything for him. At first it seems hard to believe for any of them, because most people would never guess something like that would happen to them. It does happen, but it is so rare that it is not part of most people’s reality. Probably more likely to win the lottery.
Israel and his parents seemed like the definition of ‘family by blood’ rather than ‘family by choice’. They never seemed to like each other, spend time together or talk. His father trained him and gave him a job in his business, but not only is Israel really good at his job, it also seemed likely that his dad wanted someone of his own blood to carry on his legacy, even if that person seemed to disappoint him at every point. Israel, on the other hand seemed starved for any praise by his dad and played by his father’s rules for even the slightest sliver of approval.
So now that they realize there is no blood connection between them, how does that change the dynamic between them. Will his dad cut him off the will that he has no legal right to anymore? Will he be able to remain at the firm in his current job? Will he still have contact to the parents who raised him? Will he be replaced by the ‘son they were supposed to have’ as the one to carry on the family legacy? Will he get to meet his biological parents and would they have accepted him as a gay man?
Honestly, complex family dynamics, handled with care and understanding are my kryptonite. They feel so real that I get really drawn into the emotional rollercoaster ride through a minefield and hope with all my heart the characters can work something out and find happiness. People and well-crafted characters are complex. They aren’t saints, who could never do wrong and have no flaws and they usually aren’t monsters, who enjoy being cruel and hurting others. Even people who have done a lot of mistakes and have done really bad and hurtful things, have aspects that humanize them. Even if we can’t condone or excuse their actions, sometimes it is important to understand them. N.R. Walker really excels at exploring these relationships, the differences between nature and nurture and identity.
Through it all, the changes and shocks and twists and emotional upheaval, Sam is an anchor for Israel. It would have been very easy for him to get lost in all those emotions. Questioning who he is or might have been. But his best friend knows and loves him and never lets Israel be without support. This long and very strong friendship turns into something more and gives readers many sweet and romantic moments, that balance out the angst of the rest of the book. It’S not just the romance that satisfied me in the end, though. I loved how the author handled the topic and how realistic, yet surprising the conclusion of the book was. I didn’t see it coming in quite this way, but it was beautiful and made me happy.
This book shows N.R. Walker at her best and to me is comparable with her ‘Red Dirt Heart’ series in the way it resonated with me and made me feel for the characters. She has an amazing talent of drawing me into her stories in a way that makes those stories remain with me for a long time, even after finishing the books. I strongly recommend this story and especially the wonderful audiobook.
9/10 Points of Gold ( 90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things…but likes it even more when they fall in love. She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She’s been writing ever since…