I have a hard core love of reading. It’s been going on now for 36 years, since I first consciously remember picking up and pouring over picture books lying on my tummy in the living room of my house. I can even remember which books were my favourites then. Because books leave imprints on me. And the ones I love, I love forever.
The same can be said for all of the things I’m passionate about in my life. I love music, but some musicians imprinted me and I will always love them over others. Pink. The Beatles. Mozart. Harry Chapin.
Just like I have my go-to songs to listen to depending on a mood I want to indulge, so too do I have go-to authors and even go-to books. I read Tigana at least once a year. I’ve read some of my Maeve Binchy’s so often I’ve had to replace copies. I’ve read Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf about a dozen times. I could go on.
Many years ago, before she was on my radar as a writer, I saw the movie In Her Shoes. 2005 to be exact. I love Toni Collette. I love Shirley Maclaine. The movie is funny and poignant and lovely and then I saw the best thing to see when I like a movie. Based on the book by
Who was this Jennifer Weiner? I went to the library and took out a copy of In Her Shoes. It’s different than the movie, as most books are, but much better. I knew that had I read the book first, I would not have enjoyed the movie the way I did. I am usually suspect of adaptations anyway, they tend to ruin the ‘meat’ of the book, with very few exceptions. (John Green’s Fault in our Stars is an exception. They barely changed a thing.)
Anyway, as tends to happen with me, once I read one book I like from an author, I tend to seek out all of their work. And I did. In the ten years since that moment I have read every book of Jennifer’s and I now own most of them. (I am also a bit of a book hoarder. If I like the author, I will ‘collect’ as many of their books as possible)
I fell deeply in love with her last book, All Fall Down. It was a bit of a departure from her normal but, as I understand, it was also a personal story for her, as her estranged father died from a drug overdose. Stories that in some way connect personally resonate with a rhythm all their own and this one spoke to me on levels that I didn’t even understand well at the time. I’m not a drug addict, don’t get me wrong, but the feelings of being a woman and feeling like you are the only one holding the world together is not an alien concept to me. Probably not to most women, and my love was deeply cemented. Even more so than before.
Three days ago I got my hands on a copy of her newest book Who Do You Love. A bit of a throwback to her previous writing it’s about a couple who are each others soul mates. But, it’s not so straightforward. They lose and find one another over and over again through their lives and what started out for me as a bit of a fluffy summer read by mid point of the book had me sinking deeper into the inner workings of these characters yet again. That’s the thing about Weiner’s writing that I love so much. You think you’re getting a great summer “beach read” kind of book, but then she sneaks in and speaks to your soul and forces you to examine things in your own mind through the minds of her characters. She is brilliant in this.
Rachel and Andy meet as children in a hospital. It’s a chance meeting, she is escaping the boredom of her room where she is a long term patient for cardiac care and he is a scared kid with a broken arm in the ER, alone and waiting for his mom. Their meet-cute is truly adorable and we get to watch them unexpectedly touch lives again and again.
While we wait for Rachel and Andy to grow up and get together, Jennifer weaves us through the tales of their lives and who they are. Andy is that kid with the hard hand dealt to him who rises to the world’s stage and Rachel is that well off, popular girl who realizes one day that her rose coloured glasses have been doing her no favours. As they come to love one another, hurt one another, leave one another, we are left questioning our own ‘what might have beens’ and taking a hard look at the consequence of actions. The fallout of the choices we make. We see Andy’s mighty star rise and then plummet to the earth. We watch Rachel go from protected and pampered girl, to finally a woman who can stand proudly on her own. It’s a beautiful journey.
In my own life, if I love something, like an author, or a musician. A friend or a family member, I love them fiercely and completely. Sometimes wearing my own rose coloured glasses. Sometimes, to my own fall from grace.
In this case though, I know my love is not misplaced or misguided. Jennifer Weiner’s books keep on getting better. She both challenges me and delights me and Who Do You Love is no exception.