Living a Life of Regret and Remorse by Todd Rutherford

Expiation, defined as atonement, or reparation for one’s wrongdoing, is often a natural extension of regret and remorse. Few individuals are ever able to lead a life without regret and remorse, as it is human nature to make mistakes, and to wish for a “do-over.” Greg Messel’s Expiation is one such example of living a life of regret and remorse.

An anonymous speaker once said, “There are things that we never want to let go of, people we never want to leave behind. But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a new life.” For Dan, the main character in Expiation, attaining a successful journalism career meant letting go of high school sweetheart, Katie.

Thirty years later, as Dan listens to Katie tell him about her life, he simply cannot get past the words, “after her high school sweetheart broke her heart.” In fact, Dan states, “I should have never let Katie go. I still vividly recall the July evening when I left my innocent, sweet, trusting high school sweetheart standing on the porch crying as I drove away. By not coming back to get her-as I had promised-I left her vulnerable to the evils of the world and to people like Marc Olsen.” Dan bombards himself, as he has for nearly three decades, with a slew of “what-ifs,” envisioning Katie as his wife, lover, and the mother of his children; he could have had all of these things if . . . he had just returned home for the holidays.

Readers will find in Expiation a number of themes to which to relate. One such theme that Messel gives his readers is to take charge of the future by living in the present. Despite Dan’s devastation of learning the course of Katie’s life-as a result of his decision to leave her- he realizes, “But now, I can control what happens from today forward.”

Expiation is a transcendental love story that offers many life lessons, not just for hopeless romantics, but also for everyone. One passage that truly resonates philosophically is, “The decisions we make every day in our lives are like pebbles tossed into a pond. One stone disrupts the tranquil, smooth surface of the water. It sets off a ripple which widens and expands. Soon the circle widens and rolls across the entire pond. Additional pebbles tossed into the pond will set off similar chain reactions of the ripples. It doesn’t take many stones before the ripples are interacting and crashing into one another.”

No one lives in a vacuum; every decision we make affects others. By living in the present, however, there is the ability to make decisions that will positively affect the future, and we can experience expiation by making right some of the wrongs that have led to regret and remorse.

Can Dan channel his deep regrets, and repair his relationship with Katie? Is it too late, after nearly three decades? Readers will be on the edges of their seats as they follow Dan back to Katie to make amends, as he tries to start over with a relationship that should never have ended.

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