I read this novel, supposedly for our previous reading theme on Contours of Love. However, when I noted that this was also written in the first person, kind of like an extended letter to a lost love, a make-believe memoir-of-sorts, I felt that I might as well save my review for our current reading theme on memoirs, biographies, self-constructed narratives.
Written by Jill Santopolo
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons (2017)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
I debated with myself for quite awhile as to whether I would even write my thoughts about this novel. One of the reasons why most of our reviews here are quite positive is because we make it a point to feature mostly stories that we enjoyed, cared about, and can then recommend unreservedly.
I admit to borrowing this novel upon the endorsement of my Woman Crush, the brilliant Reese Witherspoon. Most of the books that she has recommended, so far, are novels which I thoroughly liked: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (see my review here) and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (see my review here), plus I was absolutely riveted by her TV series adaptation of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (which I have yet to read).
This one, however, was a clear pass for me, from the first few chapters. Yet, I still managed to read it over one weekend. It was a page-turner, even though, a part of me was screaming with laughter and exasperation while flipping through the pages. I have to say, though, that while this book is not for me, I could totally understand why perhaps other readers could potentially adore this novel. There is the love affair with the city of New York and the devastation it has endured, the life of college students in Columbia, the coming into one’s self of a female protagonist whose voice is heard throughout the entire narrative.
Maybe it is because I am in my early 40s that I found most of the grand gestures of love somewhat egotistical, disrespectful, and self-serving. While a tiny, naive part of me could still find it in me to swoon over some of the scenes, the cynical and jaded part could only roll my eyes heavenward. I managed to find my Litsy review of this novel, which I am sharing here:
“I love Darren, too, but what you and I have is different. If I’d never met you, maybe Darren would be enough. But I’ve taken a bite of the forbidden fruit. I’ve eaten from the tree of knowledge. I’ve seen how much more there is.”
Essentially, Lucy and Gabe are a couple who did not manage to get over each other, despite their decision to commit themselves to other people. I especially found it sickening how Lucy seemed to measure her present husband, Darren, against the-man-who-got-away – as if the husband’s very existence only served as a safe and comfortable backdrop against the “forbidden fruit,” the award-winning and famous photographer, Gabe, who traveled to various far-away countries like Israel and Afghanistan.
When I finished reading this novel, I immediately went back to the other memoir that I was reading for our current reading theme, The Book Of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano. While I am deeply aware that the two books are hardly comparable, I just found it jarring how one vignette from Galeano seemed to capture the entire 325-paged novel of Santopolo. I am sharing Galeano’s short story here:
Evidently, Lucy and Gabe did not get the memo.
#LitWorld2018GB Update: USA