I feel like Taylor Jenkins Reid has slowly snuck up on me and has inserted herself onto my favorite authors list without me realizing that it was happening. I enjoyed listening to this book and there were so many emotions that were happening from beginning to end and it left me feeling sad and happy all at the same time. This is the first book of TJR’s that I’ve read that isn’t historical fiction (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo; Daisy Jones and the Six), but I feel like it was just the right place for me to start with the rest of her works.
In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.
On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.
Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.
That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.
Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?
Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.
There is just something about the way that TJR writes her characters that makes you feel like they are real people. It is definitely more noticeable with her “famous” characters (Daisy Jones and Evelyn Hugo) because it feels like you could Google them as soon as you finish the book. This book felt the same way, except they were more like someone that you would meet in your everyday life.
“It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? That every single person on this planet could lose their one true love and live to love again? It means the one you love could love again if they lost you.”
This book handles the discussion of changing as a person as you get older so well, but also comes with trigger warnings for underage drinking, thoughts of suicide, loss of a loved one, depression, grief, PTSD, and cancer. That makes is sound so much grimmer than what you really get: a tragic yet freeing love story. I personally haven’t had to go through ANYTHING that Emma has gone through (marriage, losing a husband, etc) but it was so empowering to see her get to her 30s and realize that she is exactly where she wants to be and that everything that has happened before, while still important to who she is, eventually fades away. As a 20-something, this is something that I really needed to read about. Being in your 20s isn’t all there is to life, there is so much more that can and will happen to you.
“I have changed over time. That’s what people do.
People aren’t stagnant. We evolve in reaction to our pleasures and our pains.”
I went from loving Emma and Jesse together, to loving Emma and Sam together. I wasn’t sure which man I was rooting for, until we started to see these three characters interact with each other and I realized that there was one that I clearly wanted to be the one Emma chose. While both of the men are great guys, one I noticed was a little more…controlling (for lack of a better term) with Emma and it made my decision a lot easier as to who I wanted her to finally end up with. I’ve noticed that quite a few other people came to the same conclusion for who they wanted Emma to be with, so it is a little predictable as to who she finally chooses.
“I once thought that grief was chronic, that all you could do was appreciate the good days and take them along with the bad. And then I started to think that maybe the good days aren’t just days; maybe the good days can be good weeks, good months, good years. Now I wonder if grief isn’t something like a shell. You wear it for a long time and then one day you realize you’ve outgrown it. So you put it down.”
I also thoroughly loved the side characters, especially Emma’s sister Marie and her friend Olive. We see more of Marie and I loved the evolution of their relationship as sisters. Marie also has twin daughters that are hearing impaired so that was discussed throughout the book as well, as the characters use ASL when speaking with them. Olive was someone that was kinda like the comedic relief. I loved that every time she spoke with Emma on the phone she had such a hard time hanging up the phone and every time it happened it made me chuckle a little bit. She was always there for Emma even when she was thousands of miles away from her.
“Good things don’t wait until you’re ready. Sometimes they come right before, when you’re almost there.”
Overall, I thought that this was such a wonderful, powerful, and inspiring book. I’m certain I will be reading much more from Taylor Jenkins Reid in the future.