Last year, when I was trying to read more love stories, One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid, made it onto my list. It didn’t actually get read until this year, which is in a way too bad–because it was very good! But even if it didn’t serve my “read more love stories” goal of last year, it’s meeting this year’s “read that To Be Read list” goal instead.
The book has a great opening line: “I am finishing up dinner with my family and my fiance when my husband calls.” We swiftly learn that Emma, our protagonist, lost her husband Jesse in a helicopter crash a few years previous–but now Jesse has been found in the Pacific, and is coming home. The book then flashes back to the beginning of Emma’s romance with Jesse in high school, follows them through college, marriage and Jesse’s “death,” Emma’s grief and how she eventually finds new love with Sam, the fiance of the opening line. And then we return to Jesse’s return, and what Emma is going to do now, with two men she deeply loves.
I am not usually one for triangles, but this was the rare case where it really worked for me. The concept of how this all came about was intriguing, and I liked that it’s a really difficult situation that was no one’s fault. In some ways it’s an implausible situation, but it was written with such emotional truth that whether Jesse could survive in the Pacific felt largely irrelevant. And as Reid says in an interview at the back of my copy, this isn’t a story about a man’s adventure to get home–this is about the woman left behind.
I think that’s ultimately why I liked this book as much as I did. Though it is about a love triangle, it swiftly becomes clear that it’s less about which man Emma loves and rather who she is and which life she wants. Each man represents a different path – Jesse is a bit of a bad boy adventurer, while Sam is more sweet and stable. Though Emma struggles some with who she loves, she and the book soon acknowledge that loving someone isn’t the only factor in whether you can (or should) spend your life with them. I liked the nuance and depth brought to the question, and found the exploration of the ideas very satisfying.
Roughly the first third of the book is looking back on how Emma met and loved each man, with a very difficult grief section in between (which led me to go hug my husband and tell him not to fly a helicopter over the Pacific, please). This part was well-written and necessary to the full book, although I found I was more engaged once we got back to the “present” and the central conflict of Jesse’s return. After that this was almost a page-turner (in a very different way than Evelyn Hardcastle!) to find out what Emma was going to decide. I also liked that it really felt like a story of a woman deciding, not two men fighting over a woman–which is quite a different thing.
I also enjoyed Reid’s Maybe in Another Life, so I may be trying other books by her. I’m thinking no on Forever, Interrupted because just the summary depressed me (apparently the husband stays dead in that one) but I’m intrigued by The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I’ve had good luck with a similar title 🙂