Review: Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
Source: ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster. Thank you!
Publication: August 11, 2015 by Atria Books
An unforgettable story about true love, real life, and second chances…
Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are just eight years old when they meet one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she’s intrigued by the boy who shows up alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to a doctor and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again.
Rachel grows up in an affluent Florida suburb, the popular and protected daughter of two doting parents. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent for running. Yet, over the next three decades, Andy and Rachel will meet again and again—linked by chance, history, and the memory of the first time they met, a night that changed the course of both of their lives.
A sweeping, warmhearted, and intimate tale, Who Do You Love is an extraordinary novel about the passage of time, the way people change and change each other, and how the measure of a life is who you love.
I must confess to not having read a Jennifer Weiner novel in a number of years; but after reading the description of Who Do You Love, I thought this novel would be a welcome return to her writing.
Starting off in an emotional and poignant fashion, we’re introduced to a young Rachel Blum. We learn that Rachel was born with a heart defect, surviving one surgery after another, living much of her life in and out of hospital. One night, Rachel wheels to the ER and meets Andy Landis. The two share a once-in-a-lifetime peculiar and lovely night: just two eight year olds, talking, sharing stories, and forming what is to become a life-long bond. Andy and Rachel then meet again as teens, and begin an intimate, romantic relationship; one that, as they become college students, becomes more fraught with frustrations, assumptions, diverging interests and miscommunications.
I enjoy novels written in alternating viewpoints and those that travel years or decades along with characters. Who Do You Love is especially warm and intense in the main characters’ younger years and their teens, and appropriately fraught with tension in the college years. However, my biggest issue with the novel is that while I became increasingly fond of Rachel’s character as the story went on, I became less enthused and/or invested in Andy’s storyline. Part of this may have to do with the fact that Rachel’s story is told in first-person and reads as more intimate and thoughtful; Andy’s story is told in third-person and reads as slightly detached. I also find that, as Andy grows older, his storylines and reasoning for questionable behavior felt too faint, too one-note, if not too obvious as times (this I found especially evident as he falls off the apex of his athletic domination). Rachel, on the other hand, grew more dimensional, dexterous, and more loveable as her story and narration went on.
Overall, Who Do You Love is an engaging contemporary story, at its core about undefinable love, trust and forgiveness. While I wasn’t as ultimately moved by Rachel and Andy’s story as I was with the characters in Weiner’s In Her Shoes, or Good in Bed, Who Do You Love is still an enjoyable read, bittersweet, romantic and ultimately hopeful.
I received a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.