Review: How to Save a Life by Eva Carter

Title: How to Save a Life by Eva Carter
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In this heartfelt love story, three friends find out what it really means to save someone.

Kerry Smith is going to save lives—and so is her best friend, Tim Palmer. After years of working toward medical school, they are about to take their entrance exams. But on the eve of the new millennium, a classmate goes into cardiac arrest, changing everything.

For nearly eighteen minutes, rising soccer star Joel Greenaway is dead. For nearly eighteen minutes, Kerry performs CPR on her longtime crush. And for nearly eighteen minutes, Tim is too shocked to help. Though they don’t yet know it, those eighteen minutes will change the next eighteen years of their lives.

Because, as it turns out, saving a life doesn’t always guarantee a happy ending.

With his soccer career cut short, Joel lashes out and breaks Kerry’s heart by ending their burgeoning relationship with a cruelty that derails her future, while Tim struggles to reconcile his dream of becoming a doctor with the reality of failing to act. As each struggles to move on from the events of that fateful New Year’s Eve, their lives can’t seem to stop colliding year after year. Pulled by their shared histories and her big heart, Kerry soon finds herself picking up the pieces after both broken men. But when Kerry is the one who needs saving, will anyone be there for her?

As Kerry, Tim, and Joel discover what it means to love, to forgive, and to find your calling, How to Save a Life shows us that there is more than one way to save a life—and more than one path to finding meaning in your own.


Spanning eighteen years, How to Save a Life by Eva Carter is an incredibly riveting novel.

Just as the world is about to ring in 2000, Kerry Smith saves Joel Greenaway’s life.  She and her best friend Tim Palmer plan to become doctors so they know already CPR. When Joel drops to the ground while playing a pickup game of soccer, she immediately rushes to his side and begins life-saving CPR. Tim, on the other hand, freezes and fails to assist her until just before the ambulance arrives. Everyone gives him the credit for saving Joel and neither he nor Kerry correct the record.

After they both take their entrance exams, Tim shockingly passes while Kerry does not. Kerry then changes her plans for the future in order to ensure Tim is able to continue along the path to becoming a doctor. She and Joel have passionate but short-lived romance and after the relationship ends, Kerry and Tim spend several years together. But what will happen to her relationship with Tim when she crosses paths again with Joel? And will Kerry ever have the opportunity to live out her dream of becoming a doctor?

Kerry and Tim have been best mates since he moved in across the street from her family. She is highly intelligent so everyone believes she will have no problem with her goal of becoming a doctor. Tim has a few obstacles in his path including caring for his mum who has lupus. His grades are nowhere near as good as Kerry’s so he is worried about passing his exams. In the aftermath of saving Joel, Kerry goes along with everyone thinking Tim performed CPR so he’ll have a better chance at getting selected for the medical program. While Tim is busy studying, Kerry and Joel are involved in their secret romance. After their tumultuous break-up, she is unable to focus on her studies so she does not expect to pass. Kerry then throws all of her support behind Tim so he can fulfill his dream.

Instead of being grateful for being alive, Joel cannot see a future for himself now he will not become a professional soccer player. He is angry and self-pitying and eventually drops into depression. He begins a downward slide that leads to an estrangement from his parents and homelessness. His life intersects with Kerry and Tim and in the aftermath, Joel enters into a period of time where he genuinely does not care whether he lives or dies. For the next several years, Joel, Kerry and Tim go through ups and downs and their lives go in unanticipated directions.

How to Save a Life is a captivating novel that is quite endearing. The storyline is well-plotted and engaging.  Joel, Kerry and Tim are realistically developed with life-like characteristics. They are at various times easy to like and other times extremely frustrating.  The chapters alternate between Kerry, Tim and Joel’s perspectives and they each have distinctive voices. Eva Carter brings this brilliant novel to a somewhat abrupt yet completely satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Eva Carter, How to Save Life, Rated B+, Review, Women's Fiction

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