Synopsis: He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?
Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.
Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.
I don’t know if this is going to be funny. Gasp! is your reaction, I presume. I know. Without fail, no matter what, I’m funny. That’s the Emma Guarantee: Five stars or one, hilarity ensues™. But not this time, maybe.
(Update from later: I ended up writing the majority of this review at a later date from this initial bit (had to let the injustice simmer into humor, you know how it is) (yeah, I just hit you with double parentheses, what are you gonna do about it?). Anyway, sometimes while writing this I got too mad to be funny but honestly, my amusing-ness comes naturally. So it worked out.)
I feel a really massive mix of emotions right now. And not in a fun way. I will try to list some feelings that are currently warring within me: sadness, irritation, anger, confusion, disappointment. Hm! All negative. Not looking good for you, three stars, four stars, and five stars. Look! Progress on the rating front already.
This is the synopsis I read of this book (you know, the bananas misleading one that made me make the mistake of picking it up): “For your friend who ugly cried while watching ‘One Day’….‘The Light We Lost’ will bring you back. This read’s about two people who meet in strange circumstances who keep running into each other over the years. Get it, then grab the Kleenex.”
Um, no. I goddamn wish. But no.
(To clarify, I didn’t ugly cry at One Day. Uh, duh. That would destroy my whole thing. My carefully cultivated brand. I just really like stories in which people meet coincidentally over time.)
Instead of that synopsis, we get a metric f*ck ton of characters who fully suck treating each other terribly. The crown jewel in this treasure trove of horrible is our eye roll-inducing protagonist, Lucy. On 9/11 – yes, 9/11 – Lucy meets Gabe, and they instantly fall in love and make out while 3,000 people are dying blocks away. Yes, those are the “strange circumstances.”
That’s, like, ten pages in.
The worst bit is you can tell the author knows it’s offensive. She inserts excuses about how hundreds of people were doing it, and tries to make it profound by the use of truisms about how massive loss of life makes the living want to live. So, like, if you knew it was awful, PICK ANY OTHER DAY IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY. But beginning your ~life-changing romance~ during one of the greatest tragedies in American history?
THAT’S A BIG OL’ NOPE.
God. I’d like to clarify that my “mix of emotions” has changed. Now it’s exclusively fury. THIS BOOK JUST MAKES ME SO ANGRY. Lucy is so self-centered and immature and inconsiderate and emotionally stunted, and so is Gabe. They totally are perfect for each other! We follow them for 13 years, while they consistently throw the people in their lives to the side in favor of making steamy eye contact with one another whenever possible.
They don’t “keep running into each other over the years.” It’s all orchestrated and intentional, BECAUSE THEY’RE OBSESSED WITH EACH OTHER. They never talk about anything else, and they see each other at every opportunity. It doesn’t matter if Lucy is dating, or engaged, or married, or married with children. Whenever Gabe shows up, she drops EVERYTHING. She brings her young daughter with her to see him when he gets the news that his mom died, so that toddler gets the fun childhood memory of seeing an adult stranger uncontrollably crying alongside an early confrontation of the reality and pervasiveness of death!
She also dates, gets engaged to, marries, and has children with this guy Darren, I think, who adores her, despite never really being totally sold on the dude. He turns out to be a total piece of sh*t, but that’s just so Gabe looks better in comparison.
Gabe really needs that. Because he’s just as self-obsessed and inconsiderate as Lucy, and also utterly pretentious, totally egocentric and BORING. (Lucy is also the latter.) This isn’t so much an incredible love story as “Wow, those two people are truly horrible. They should end up together.”
The worst thing that happens in this book – besides the 9/11 incorporation – is a massive spoiler, so don’t read this if you’re at all feeling like you may pick up the book. (view spoiler) And now, my thoughts on that, which are also spoilery: (view spoiler)
This whole thing just felt like emotional manipulation. Darren existed to make Gabe seem okay, and every twist of the plot was calculated to be the most emotional rollercoaster-y it could be, and everything turned out the way it did in the hopes it would seem like a Meaningful Story. But it doesn’t. It’s just awful. 9/11 was used as a motif, for God’s sake! It was just trying to score Emotional And Profound points all the way. Which is so f*cked.
Lucy also talks down constantly about stay at home moms, and it drives me crazy. Just f*cking let women do what they want, for the love of all that is good and Reese’s-branded. (My version of good and holy.) A career woman is no better than a full-time mom. That’s, like, the entire point of feminism. Is it antifeminist to say I wanna punch Lucy in her stupid face? Keep in mind that I’ll face-punch the male characters of this book, too. #Equality
I really have no clue what the message of this book is, either. A lot of really horrible stuff happens, and it gets worse and worse, and then it just…ends. There’s no moral or hint at what happens next. Again, just trying to emotionally manipulate the reader without actual, you know, purpose. It’s no Me Before You, guys.
But even if this book didn’t suffer from all the stuff I mentioned – and God, did it suffer – I still wouldn’t like it. Because this whole book focuses on a love that consumes, that dims all other loves and joys and small happinesses in life, that prevents one from focusing on everything else. And who the f*ck would want that? Lucy is a broken record through this whole book because she loves a boring asshole
and is a boring asshole. Her children and friendships and marriage suffer for it. There’s nothing that’s worth that, and this book sure did a sh*tty job of trying to convince me otherwise.
Bottom line: I’m angry all over again. NOOOOOOO, I scream from the rooftops. A big ol’ nope for this one.