Best-selling author Jennifer Weiner is known for her tales that touch the heart. I was surprised to discover that, while previous books have had romantic threads, Who Do You Love, her latest offering, is her first proper love story. Inspired by her real-life romance with Sports Illustrated Books editor Bill Syken, this heartfelt book is about life, true love, and second chances.
Rachel Blum and Andy Landis meet in an ER waiting room when they are 8 years old. They come from completely different worlds: Rachel from an affluent Florida suburb, Andy from a single-parent home in a poor part of Philadelphia. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is no stranger to hospitals and, fascinated by the boy that turns up alone with a broken arm, she tells him a story. In that moment, Fate casts her spell, igniting a bond between two children that feel, in their own ways, broken.
As teenagers, Andy and Rachel meet again when they’re both volunteering on a Summer project, and the connection they felt in the hospital waiting room years before is stirred up. Before long, they fall in love. But, they are too different, living such different lives, and their summer romance is short-lived. Their love, however, endures and, over the years, providence keeps drawing them in and out of each others lives as they grow, and change, and change each other.
There is an ebb and flow to this book, and I felt I was carried on the tide that brought Rachel and Andy together and then tore them apart, all the while hoping, but also knowing they were not ready – life had to happen first. Weiner’s pacing is perfect, and I was impressed that she was able to cover decades without losing the detail or at the expense of the characters.
I had a real soft spot for Andy, his determination and commitment to his running were inspiring and his relationship with Mr Sills was utterly touching – every young boy should have a Mr Sills! I also really enjoyed how Weiner used Andy’s story with his successful running career to explore the idea of celebrity and the affect it has on innocent individuals, and how even the best of us can buckle under the pressure.
Unfortunately, on the other hand, I found Rachel quite uninspiring and for much of the book I didn’t even particularly like her. For an author who is so skilled at writing about the inner lives of women, that this was missing in this book was disappointing, and, for me, this meant that the book was somehow lacking.
While it may not be her best work, Who Do You Love is still an easy and engaging read that explores some interesting ideas. But, if you’re new to Jennifer Weiner, I recommend starting with one of her earlier novels.