Adult Books Genre Lifespan of a Reader Literary Fiction Memoirs, Biographies, and Constructed Narratives Reading Themes Romance

A Love Story Written In The First Person That Simply Isn’t For Me

Otherwise known as "The Light We Lost" by Jill Santopolo.

Myra here.

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.

The Light We Lost

Written by Jill Santopolo
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons (2017)
ISBN-10: 0735212759
ISBN-13: 9780735212756
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.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “A Love Story Written In The First Person That Simply Isn’t For Me

  1. Oh that excerpt from The Book of Embraces is so perfect. If reading the book you didn’t like as much led you to share that gem, then I’m glad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really hesitated even sharing my thoughts about it, mainly because I am sure there will be others for whom this particular narrative would be perfect, wherever they are in their lives. But this juxtaposition of both texts is one that I also wanted to highlight, it was just so jarring. I have scheduled my review of The Book Of Embraces in a few weeks’ time. 🙂 You have to find that one. 🙂


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