Author: Jennifer Weiner
Jennifer Weiner is the bestselling author of 12 novels, this is the first I have read but that is something I plan to change and I know that there is at least one on my TBR shelf that I must unearth.
Who Do You Love arrived on my desk recently and the cover grabbed my attention but what really intrigued me was the tagline at the top:
What happens if you meet the love of your life before your life has really started?
I was captured; when did they meet? how did they meet? The blurb on the back tells me they mret in a hospital ER when they are just 8 years old, it’s a short meeting that sees them say goodbye expecting never to see one another again.
We open on a prologue in which a devastated Rachel is unable to drag herself out of bed, unsure of how to go on after the breakup of her marriage. This was enough to have me questioning who the husband was and what had happened; questions that I didn’t get answers to until close to the end of the story. Regardless of what was going on in the narrative I was driven to keep reading, hoping to discover the answers to questions raised before the story even began.
The story begins back in 1985 with an 8 year old Rachel in hospital after heart surgery, the latest in quite a list of hospital stays. Rachel was no stranger to Miami hospital and as an inquisitive eight year old there was never enough entertainment to be had in her own room, or even her ward. She is left feeling restless one evening while the door to her friends room is closed so she sneaks off ward to find a little adventure and a story to bring back for Alice. Her adventure leads her to the ER late in the evening where she meets an unaccompanied Andy waiting to be seen by the doctor. The two share a blanket, a box of mini donuts and conversation until Rachel tells him the story of Hansel and Gretel, the Grimm version, and then leaves him with a teddy when he goes in for examination and a nurse escorts her back to her ward.
Andy and Rachel say their goodbyes believing this to be a one off meeting as Andy is from Philadelphia and only in Miami for a couple of days.
From their very first meeting we could see the fundamental differences between Rachel and Andy. She was from an overprotective middle class Jewish family and he was the only child of a single mother that was often left to his own devices, he was also bi-racial.
Who Do You Love is told as a dual narrative in the first person by Rachel and a third person perspective of Andy. The time periods skip back and forth a little so that we may see Rachel in 1985, Andy in 1987, Rachel in 1990 then Andy in 1990. Sometimes we see them both in the same time period and other times they will skip a little further ahead, or go back a little. At times I had to go back to the beginning of the chapter to see when I was but for the most part it flowed quite fluently.
We follow the lives of Rachel and Andy as they try to find their way in their very different worlds. There are some strong fundamental differences but the two are also very similar.
Andy has never really fit in, living in limbo because he’s not quite black and not quite white. Add to that the fact that he was poor and it often caused problems for him at school. Andy ran because running took him out of his head and into a zone where it was just him and his body and he could shut out everything else.
Rachel never quite fit in either. She had spent so much time in and out of hospital, and out of school, that she wasn’t like the other kids. The move up to a new school was a great opportunity for her to reinvent herself, and she hadn’t been in hospital for a while, so she didn’t have to be the kid with the heart condition anymore. She tried so hard to be one of the popular kids that sometimes I wonder if she didn’t lose sight of herself a little.
Over the years the two randomly crossed paths and the connection was always strong, the obstacles were also many. A lot of their issues came down to a stubborn lack of proper communication or a willingness to let go – though they never really let go.
Who Do You Love spans thirty years which is a lot of growth, a lot of development and a lot of mistakes. It explores all the major events in life and that unconscious first response of who you want to turn to; the regrets and the what ifs.
The prologue leaves us forever in doubt, is there going to be a happily ever after? If they do get together and make it last does it really last or is Andy the deserting husband?
Heart breaking, heart warming, topical and engrossing. I would love to say this is a feel good story of true love conquering all but throughout the story this couple come together and drift apart over and over again so you never know if true love WILL conquer all. It certainly does demonstrate that the course of true love is never smooth.
Is there such a thing as destiny? Can you really meet your soulmate at age eight?
A meeting at age eight did a lot to set the direction for Rachel’s life but it took her a couple of false starts before she realised it.
I loved this book. The characters are three dimensional, the situations are realistic and relatable and the story was set against true life events that added authenticity to the time periods.
Jennifer Weiner grabbed my attention and didn’t let it waver from beginning to end, she is definitely an author I will be reading again.