Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves

“I think that perhaps everyone has a moment that splits their life in two. When we look back on our own timelines, there’s a sharp spike somewhere along the way, some event that changed you, changed your life, more than others. A moment that creates a Before and an After…Maybe it’s something wonderful. Maybe it’s something tragic. But when it happens, it tints your memories, shifts your perspective on your own life, and it suddenly seems as if everything you’ve been through falls under the label of ‘pre’ or ‘post.’”

 

I have a special place for Taylor Jenkins Reid novels in my heart. She has a way of conveying emotions that really pulls at your strings and allows you to feel everything that the characters do. I’ve thought this way from the beginning, ever since I was introduced to her first novel, Forever, Interrupted, knowing full well that it was going to be a tearjerker, but plunging in regardless. In her fourth novel, One True Loves, Reid explores the idea that a person can have more than one true love, as her main protagonist, Emma, is forced to choose between her new fiancé and the husband that she thought had died three-and-a-half years earlier.

Is it ever really possible to get over your true love? When Emma first lost her husband, Jesse, she thought that her life was over, and in many ways it was. The life that they had shared together ended the minute his plane crashed into the ocean. Not knowing what else to do, she quits her job and moves back to her parents’ home in Massachusetts to try and put the pieces of her life back together. It is there that she runs into her old friend, Sam, and after much soul searching, decides to give love a second chance. They become engaged and move in together, but as Emma knows, life is unpredictable, and you may not get the happily-ever-after ending that you hoped for. It is there, while leaving her father’s sixty-fourth birthday party, with her new fiancé in toe, that she gets the phone call that will change her life forever. Again. Jesse is alive. And he’s coming home. While Emma had spent the past three-and-a-half years trying to create a new life for herself and get over the devastation of losing the one person she loved most in the world, Jesse had been stuck on an island in the middle of the Pacific, trying to survive and make it home to her. But what about Sam? Where does he fit in?

When Emma and Jesse are reunited, it is clear that they still deeply love each other, but it is also clear that they both have changed in different ways. Emma is working at her parents’ bookstore, something that she had swore she would never do. Jesse has experienced so much pain that Emma couldn’t possibly begin to understand. He wants to pick up where they left off, travel the globe together with their work, move back to California, and as much as Emma is grateful that Jesse is alive and wants to go back to the way things were, she is not sure if that is something that she still wants. The life that she created with Sam is the exact opposite of the one she had had with Jesse: it’s grounded, stable. Emma questions her feelings for Sam and Jesse. She feels like she’s betrayed both men in a way: Jesse, for moving on and not wanting to spend the rest of her life heartbroken and alone, and Sam, for knowing that if she stays with him, she will never be able to give him her complete heart.

It doesn’t come down to love. There is no question that Emma loves both of them. But every love is different. You’re never the same person that you are with your previous love, nor do you love that new person the same way. It doesn’t negate one or the other. It doesn’t mean that you cared for one more than the other. It just means that you loved them differently. For Emma, what it comes down to is what she wants out of life. After losing Jesse, Emma became a different person, because there’s no way that you couldn’t lose the love of your life and not have it affect your fundamentally. “Do you ever get over loss? Or do you find a box within yourself, big enough to hold it?” How do you choose between the person who was ripped from your life too soon and the person who helped you come back from the dead?

For me, this was probably the most heartbreaking of all her novels. It’s hard to think that our true love can be ripped away from us without a moment’s notice. It’s devastating, really, to have built a life with someone and to have to start over. But what is equally devastating is the fact that you might be able to move on some day, or, if you were the person that was lost, that they can move on without you. Can replace you. That you can replace them. But you can never actually replace a person that you loved so deeply and lost.

Taylor came to my office the week after I read this manuscript, and I had the pleasure of discussing One True Loves with her. We talked about Jessie and Sam, and Emma’s relationships with both of them. We discussed the ending, and who Emma picks. I told her that I had been a little disappointed, because of who I wanted Emma to be with and who she ended up choosing. I was disappointed, but I understood. I knew he was the right choice, but in the end, I was still routing for the other guy. Out of the people who had read the manuscript thus far, I was the only one who had expressed that opinion to her, and Taylor had found that interesting, as did I.

So who does Emma choose in the end? There’s a point in the novel where Emma and Jesse spend a few days together at his parents’ cabin. It was also where they had had their wedding. It was the first time since his return that they really had a good chunk of time alone and were able to really open up and discuss all that they had been through. It is another moment in the novel that is fitting of the quote above, another moment that helps Emma to make the decision that she needs to make. The choice that she needs to make. It is possible to have more than one true love in your life, but you can’t have them at the same time.

one true loves
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. June 2016. Washington Square Press.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Andi Dorfman’s It’s Not Okay

Normally, I’m not one to read memoirs, or nonfiction of any kind, even if the subject is interesting to me. I feel that they are hard to hold my attention and therefore strictly read fiction. Then I heard about Andi Dorfman’s book and, being a fan of the Bachelor/Bachelorette, I HAD to get my hands on it – and, since it was being published in-house, it only took a few emails and a short walk to obtain a pre-pub copy.

I started reading it, put it down, read three or four novels, than picked it back up. It seemed fitting that I finish it by the time the new season of the Bachelorette premiered, which is exactly what I did. For those of you who are fans of the show – even if you didn’t love Andi’s season – this is a MUST read. Not only are you given a behind the scenes look at the show, but you also get a glimpse at life after the show, beyond the interviews and public appearances.

If you will remember, Andi ended up choosing former baseball player Josh Murray over the season’s villain, Nick Vail, and everyone’s (then) favorite farmer, Chris Soules. I say then favorite, because Chris went on to become the next Bachelor, and turned out to be much more of a playboy than I had expected – but I digress! As I was never a fan of Nick or Josh, I was Chris all the way, so you can imagine my sadness at her final choice. There was just something about Josh that I didn’t trust; he was too perfect, too polite, too southern. It felt like a façade to me and I was disappointed that Andi couldn’t see that.

When news of their split surfaced, I wasn’t all that surprised. And, not to give anything away, but while reading It’s Not Okay, I found my self equally as unsurprised by the behind-the-scenes aspects of their relationship and his behavior that ultimately was the breaking point for them.

Andi fell in love and got her heat broken, something that most of us has experienced at one point or another in our lives. Though it’s been quite a while since mine was last broken, I still can remember the pain and agony that I endured. I wanted to crawl into bed next to Andi and pass a bottle of wine back-and-forth with her, because I felt for her.

She fell in love. She got her heart broken. She survived.

 

“No matter how bad it gets, no matter how tumultuous and painful the end of a relationship can be, no matter how much you think your life is over and you are forever damaged, there comes a moment when you find that the storm has finally passed. The sunshine has dried up all the rain, and you, my friend, have survived. It’s the moment where you look at the scar that care from heartbreak, and see it not as a scar of weakness but as a scar of resiliency and strength. It’s the moment when you finally realize that maybe, just maybe, it is okay.”

bachelorette
It’s Not Okay by Andi Dorfman.  Gallery Books.  May 2016. Available now.

Leah Raeder’s Cam Girl

“Once you show the world you’re different, you can never take it back.”

 
At once a sexy thriller and a story about sexual identity, Leah Raeder’s latest novel, Cam Girl, follows two best friends as they grapple with the aftermath of a tragic accident and what they really mean to each other.

When Vada Bergen and Ellis – Elle – Carraway met, their connection was instantaneous. Naturally, when Vada, a burgeoning artist, gets into grad school, Elle moves across the country with her. It is there that the lines of their friendship blur, there that they become so inseparable that they cannot (and do not) want to live without the other. It’s the kind of connection that has the power to change lives for both the better…and the worse, the kind of connection that has the potential to fall completely to pieces with the smallest puff of wind. They both intentionally hurt each other. Vada does it because she is scared about her feelings and trying to fight them, while Elle does it both because of Vada’s insecurities and her own. After the accident happens – and Vada is left permanently injured – they drift apart, although as we come to learn, they were drifting apart long before the accident actually occurred.

While attending a party, Vada meets a couple that takes her deep into the world of camming, where every night, she takes her clothes off for the cyber world, racking in tons of “tips.” But when new client, Blue, takes things to the next level, Vada is forced to confront herself and the past that she is running from, finally digging down to the truth of the matter.

I had a lot of feelings about the mysterious Blue. Was he there to cause problems? Were his intentions pure? And, just who was he? While we do eventually find out who Blue is, his identity is not really important. What is important is what Blue does for Vada. The demons that Blue is able to make her face. The love that Blue is able to make her confront. Vada is bisexual, but that’s not the real problem for her. Elle has always been her exception, but, being with Elle forever, publicly, is Vada’s real issue. Despite the fact that she is completely in love with Elle, loving Elle goes against her dreams of marrying a man and living happily ever after. She’s scared of going against the norms of society because she feels that once she does, she will always be seen as a label and not as anything else. It is through her relationship with Blue that Vada is able to realize that nothing else matters in life if you are not yourself, and that, by finally allowing the world to see the part of her she kept hidden, she is able to help others realize that they are not alone.

 

“What is art? We take reality, and we filter it through our eyes and minds and hands, and remake it. What comes out is both more and less true than what went in. It illuminates some part of reality just as it obscures other parts. Art is an imperfect impression of the world. As the self is an imperfect impression of the soul.”

9781501114991
Leah Raeder’s Cam Girl.  November 2015.  Atria Books.

Ashley Hay’s The Railwayman’s Wife

If I could describe reading Ashley Hay’s The Railwayman’s Wife briefly, I would say that it was like going on a journey of the soul. One year in the life of a widow, trying to make sense of a world that took her husband away from her, learning how to navigate life in an unfamiliar way, and discovering new facets about herself. It is about love and loss, and finding oneself again after your whole world has crumbled.

The protagonist, Anikka Lachlan – Ani – goes through quite the transformation. In the beginning of the novel, Ani is content with her life as a wife, a mother, a homemaker. She is a voracious reader, frequently getting lost in the pages of a book, but her life is calm, relaxed. There is a ‘stillness’ about her. She’s careful in her actions, always holding back as though she’s afraid that someone will notice her, afraid to let go and live in the moment. Unlike her husband, Mac, who we get to know – both through Ani’s memories and individual chapters – as a man who isn’t afraid to let life grab a hold of him and lead him. She is docile with him, complacent. After his death, Ani has no choice but to reinvent herself, and by the end of the novel, she is able to act carefree, doing cartwheels on the beach and actually wishing for an audience.

Ani is not the only character that we see go through a transformation. Roy McKinnon and Frank Draper return home three years after the end of WWII changed men. Before the war Roy had been a teacher. He is also a poet, having published a poem while he was away. Roy walks around aimlessly searching for something to write about, discouraged by his inability to write in a peaceful setting, until he befriends Ani, finally finding the inspiration that he needs to write again. As a doctor, Frank saw a lot more death than he could have imagined while he was away and felt helpless to stop it. It is only after he resumes his relationship with Roy’s sister and gets to know Ani that he is able to start enjoying life again.

It only took me three days to read this and I distinctly remember two times when it brought me to tears. The first was after we learn of Mac’s death, and the second when something completely unexpected occurs. The novel is full of beautiful prose and descriptions, and teaches you that life does not end with death, that sometimes it can be reborn.

 

“The oceans and the skies…and the sun coming up each new day. That’s all there is, I think. That’s all that matters to think on.”

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay, coming April 2016
The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay. Coming April 2016. Atria Books.

E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (YA)

“Silence is a protective coating over pain.”

The Sinclairs are always perfect. No matter what happens, they are a perfect, beautiful family. Nothing is ever wrong, even when the opposite is true. Problems just don’t exist…not for them. They believe that strength comes from burying issues and not dwelling on them. That having feelings makes a person weak. They have turned living in ignorance into an art form, and are content with such. But, is that really possible? Is that really the healthy way to live your life? There comes a point when you can no longer bury your pain. What happens then?

In E. Lockhart’s novel, We Were Liars, Cadence returns to Beechwood Island for the summer after a season’s absence due to debilitating migraines. Having no memory of the accident from summer fifteen (she is now seventeen), Cadence hopes that being around the Liars – Gat and her cousins, Johnny and Mirren – will enable her to learn the truth about what happened. There is only one thing standing in her way. The Sinclairs. Cadence is a Sinclair, and the Sinclairs have no problems. When everyone is refusing to talk about the accident, will Cadence stay in the state of not-knowing forever, or will coming back to Beechwood Island be the key to unlocking the memories that her mind (and everyone else) has tried hard to keep buried.

“Sometimes I wonder if reality splits…[if] there are parallel universes in which different events happen to the same people. An alternate choice has been made, or an accident has turned out differently. Everyone has duplicates of themselves in these other worlds. Different selves with different lives, different luck.”

IMG_1216.JPG

Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed

How do you go on living your life, knowing that there’s a part of you out there that is missing?

In Khaled Hosseini’s third novel, And the Mountains Echoed, he explores relationships that we have with ourselves and our families. How, one choice, one decision, has the power to not only change our lives, but theirs as well. How the people that are closest to us will go to great lengths in order to do what’s right, sacrificing everything they can, but also how sometimes people surprise you when you need them the most, destroying hopes that you never knew you had. Spanning generations, Hosseini takes the reader on a journey across continents, delving into the complex relationships of family and how things don’t always turn out the way you want them to.

Starting with siblings Pari and Abdullah, who are separated by extraordinary circumstances, we follow them and others through the aftermath, and witness the true power of love and how the loss of it can stick with you throughout a lifetime.

“It is important to know this, to know your roots. To know where you started as a person. If not, your own life seems unreal to you. Like a puzzle….Like you have missed the beginning of a story and now you are in the middle of it, trying to understand.”

IMG_3576.JPG

Cynthia Bond’s Ruby

In Cynthia Bond’s debut novel, Ruby, she explores many themes including: cult rituals, blindness in faith, and the true strength of love. At its core though, the novel is about one woman’s struggle to regain control of her life amidst a sea of destruction and the man who tries to help her do it.

Ruby and Ephram met as children in the woods one afternoon. Ruby spent most of her time working for a woman a few towns over, so she was barely home, but Ephram never forgot how beautiful she was. From there, Ruby went to NYC in search of her mother who had long since run away, leaving everything behind her, or so she thought. On the outside, she was educated, and she knew how to put herself together, but she never could completely shake away the horrors of her youth. Decades later, she returns to the small Texas town from which she grew up, becoming increasingly haunted by the past, allowing it to reclaim her soul and take over her life in ways that she never could have imagined. It’s only when Ephram gains the courage to show her what it means to be loved unconditionally that Ruby starts to realize just how far she has fallen. Slowly, Ephram brings back the woman that she once was, but will that be enough to drag Ruby out of the darkness, or does the past have too strong a hold on her? Will Ruby be able to let go of it all, or will she remain a prisoner of her own mind forever.

How strong is the power of unconditional love? How strong is the power of faith in yourself, that you can get through anything you set your mind to? Bond asks us these questions again and again in Ruby, but does she give us the answers that we want to hear, does she leave us with a more ugly truth, or does she leave these questions unanswered altogether. In life, we are constantly faced with questions or problems, but rarely a solution. We walk through life with uncertainty, but only the best of us are able to keep living without the answers.

image

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s After I Do

“Just because you can live without someone doesn’t mean you want to.”

 

In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s second novel, After I Do, she explores what happens to relationships when you compromise too much of yourself – your wants and your needs – in order to make the other person happy and avoid conflict. Not only does it have the power to tear two people apart, but it also can make you forget the person that you once were.

Eleven years ago, when Lauren first started dating Ryan, she knew that what they had was special and that it had the power to last. For a while things were perfect, until, suddenly, they weren’t. After yet another argument – spawning from losing their car and ending with a vase being thrown against a wall – they come to the realization that the love they once shared has faded. Not ready to admit failure, they decide to take a year off from their marriage, living separate lives – with zero contact – in hopes that after the time is up, they can regain what they lost.

At first things are really hard, but as the months go on, Lauren gets closer to her family, discovers new interests, and realizes that she can be happy without her husband. She starts questioning everything about herself and her relationship, no longer sure if what they had is fixable or if she even wants to fix it, at the same time that Ryan starts to realize that it is and they can. But, is Ryan’s faith enough to save them in the end when Lauren’s is starting to run out?

After I Do is about what happens when love fades, and about giving everything you’ve got in order to get back what you lost. It’s about how your heart breaks when you say goodbye to the one person that you thought would be in your life forever, and what you do to cope with that loss.

 

“All that matters in this life is that you try. All that matters is that you open your heart, give everything you have, and keep trying.”

 

photo

Emily Giffin’s The One & Only

For her first novel with Random House, Emily Giffin’s The One & Only is, in some ways, quite a bit different from her other novels, revolving mainly around college football and the lives of those involved (directly or indirectly) in it. But, if you look beyond all of the sports discourse, you can see that, at its core, it is still a Giffin novel, just with love and relationships as a secondary focus instead of the main one.

The novel follows Shea Rigsby, a woman whose life completely revolves around football – something she has been passionate about since before she can remember. Her best friend, Lucy, is the daughter of famed college football coach Clive Carr, who not only is the head coach for Walker University – in the town of the same name that Shea grew up in – but also has been a role model and father figure to her due to her father’s absence. The Carrs are Shea’s second family, so when tragedy strikes them, naturally she empathizes and tries to do everything she can do to help them through it. But, with tragedy comes reflection; it’s what makes people reexamine their lives and make changes that they wouldn’t have done otherwise, and Shea is no different in that aspect. Maybe Walker isn’t everything. Shea makes big changes in both her personal and professional lives that, although seem to be the right paths for her, ultimately leave her wondering: what if everything she could ever want or need was there all along. What if Walker really was everything?

There is a major focus on football, but does it work for Giffin? Can her fans get passed the overwhelming assault of an emasculating sport or will they be thoroughly disappointed? Although I was slightly taken aback as to the sheer volume at which football comes into play in The One & Only, I think her writing stands for itself. What I love about Giffin novels is their ability to make me not only feel for and relate to the characters in the story, but also, their ability to make me turn inward and self-reflect. So many of us have aspects of our lives that we are not happy with, whether it be a job that doesn’t interest us, a love life that doesn’t challenge us, or just a melancholic feeling towards ourselves in general. Sometimes, changes have to be made in order for us to be happy, but often times, it’s just more a matter of changing our perception on things, as Shea experiences. Sometimes you need to take a step outside of yourself and your life to realize that everything you ever could have wanted has been there the whole time.

Sometimes you only get one shot. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury to think or wait or plan. Sometimes you have to reach out and seize your moment. Your best, last, or only chance.”

IMG_1956.JPG

Sarah Pekkanen’s Catching Air

If you had the opportunity to leave everything behind and start a new life, would you take it? In Sarah Pekkanen’s new novel, Catching Air, she writes about two couples tied together through blood and little else, who embark on such a journey, and a mysterious woman who joins them with secrets of her own.

Kira was an associate at a law firm in Florida and was so stressed and overworked that she barely had time to do anything else. Her husband Peter had different jobs here and there, but it was Kira who was the bread winner. Then comes the phone call for them to join Peter’s brother Rand in Vermont to help run a bed-and-breakfast, and the normally practical couple decide to make the leap. Little did they know that it wasn’t going to be as simple as it sounded, and issues that they had long buried would start surfacing.

When Alyssa and Rand decided to buy the bed-and-breakfast, they thought it was going to be like every other one of their adventures – something they would do for a short period of time until they grew bored, then leave it behind and venture onto the next thing. But, even for the world’s most carefree couple, life gets in the way. Will they be able to make it or will it be the thing that tears them apart?

Then there’s Dawn, a young woman who fled from a bad situation and ended up at the bed-and-breakfast in Vermont. Will she be able to safely start a new life or will her past come back for her?

Catching Air is about people at a crossroads in their lives, which is why I think that it is so appealing. We all reach them, some not as obvious as others, but, every time we have to make a decision, whether it be getting a new job, ending a relationship, moving, we don’t realize just how much it will impact our lives. It is the way we behave and the choices that we make that make us who we are, that allow us to fail or succeed, which is what Pekkanen is showing us. Running away doesn’t solve anything because you’re not really making a decision as much as you are avoiding it, which only works for so long. You can’t run away from life. You always have to make a decision in the end.

20140707-091051-33051926.jpg