"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review #38: Who Do You Love, by Jennifer Weiner

This made the rounds a few weeks ago (baxlala and Jenny S posted reviews last month), and I pretty much agree with them, that this was good, but not great, and certainly not as great as I've come to expect from Weiner.

Rachel, who was born with a heart defect, is a veteran of hospitals, and she's wandering about one night at eight years old when she meets Andy, also eight, in the ER waiting room. Andy's been brought in because he fell off of a hotel balcony and broke his arm. Andy's all alone; the hotel staff was unable to locate his mother. The hospital can't treat him without a parent present, and so Rachel tells him a story to calm his fears and keep him occupied. Andy's mom arrives, he's whisked behind the doors, Rachel is sent back to her room, and they never see each other again.

Until they meet in Atlanta on a church outreach program the summer before their junior year, building houses for the less fortunate. Andy recognizes Rachel and they spend an idyllic few days together. From there, it's two more years, not until Rachel's grandmother takes her to Philadelphia for a stopover before her graduation trip to Europe, that they see each other again. They manage to form a romantic relationship, even though Andy is busy with school and running and Rachel is busy with college and her sorority, until their own growing pains push them apart again. The book continues in this vein: they probably come together and fall apart about a half dozen times, with sections alternating between Rachel's perspective and Andy's. Eventually, Andy and Rachel split for good. Rachel becomes a social worker, marries, and has children. Andy, a competitive runner who went to the Olympics only to eventually have his career tank when it's revealed that he used performance enhancing drugs, begins rebuilding his life working at a HomeGoods store. Years later, Rachel's husband has left her for another woman, and she's at the HomeGoods store shopping for a shower faucet, and lo and behold, there is Andy, ready, willing, and waiting.

The more time I've had away from this novel, the less enchanted I am by it. There is huge potential here, and Weiner had the ability to knock this out of the park. Instead, she wrote a fairly dull romance novel with a preposterous premise, too many coincidences, a too-abrupt ending, and a heroine that, in the end, still needed the man to feel complete. It was perfectly serviceable as a romance paperback, but I've grown to expect more from Weiner. If it were anyone else, I'd be knocking it down to two stars.

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