This story of Expiation is truly beautiful and heartwarming, transcending regret and resentment. Expiation is a must read for all romantics who know that love can forge a bond for eternity between destined lovers.
Throughout the course of a lifetime, many individuals go through the need for expiation, for atoning for past wrongs. For some, there is a feeling of remorse or regret for wasting their days of youth; for others, the need for expiation arises after falling short in life for any number of reasons and scenarios. For Dan, the main character of Greg Messel’s novel, Expiation, life was imbued with regret for letting his high school sweetheart slip right through his fingers while focusing on career goals. Maria Robinson’s opening quote in Expiation captures the spirit of the title: “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “expiation” is defined as the act of making atonement, or the means by which atonement is made. Interestingly, Greg Messel offers his own unique take on “expiation” at the beginning of the book: “compensation for a wrong; to make amends or reparation for (wrongdoing or guilt); atone for; satisfaction.”
The chance to make a wrong into a right is rare; few people get this chance, yet Dan is one of them. Messel’s story revolves around two star-crossed, hopelessly romantic high school sweethearts at Ballard High School. Dan and Katie’s tale of romance hits a crossroad and comes to an abrupt end-or an extremely extended pause-after high school, with Dan moving from Seattle to Northern California for college at U.C. Berkeley, and ultimately a successful journalism career, and Katie left behind, apart from the life Dan would claim for his own.
Fate plays an immense role in this book as it reunites the two lovers nearly three decades later. What a reunion it is as the two find each other after so long, in fact, questions of fate and possibilities bombard Dan, the same questions that have plagued Dan over and over for thirty years: “Does she still harbor resentment towards me because of my insensitivity to her feelings so many years ago? How could I’ve so carelessly tossed away a jewel such as her?”
Their chance meeting-or not so chance since Katie intentionally came knowing that it was her best chance to meet Dan-sets the stage for expiation to occur, and for Dan to repair the one relationship that likely had the most significance in his life. Ultimately, there is a sense of awe at the way the two come together and attempt to rekindle a love that was set aside so many years before.
Expiation rarely ever comes cheap or easy. On the contrary, one must bare his/her very soul in order to attain true expiation, or atonement for wrongdoings. For example, thirty years have passed, yet Katie harbors resentment for the way Dan left her: “You mean what happened after I had my heart broken by my high school sweetheart?”
This story of expiation is truly beautiful and heartwarming, transcending regret and resentment. Expiation is a must read for all romantics who know that love can forge a bond for eternity between destined lovers.