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Book Review: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Review: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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“But I guess that’s sort of the point of love between two people -- you can’t recreate it. Every time you love, everyone you love, the love is different. You’re different in it.”

Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite contemporary writers. Her first four books were contemporary novels, while her latest, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, was a historical novel about Old Hollywood. I first discovered Taylor Jenkins Reid through Anne Bogel on her What Should I Read Next podcast. I read Maybe in Another Life earlier this year and really enjoyed it. So I have been itching to read One True Loves. Anne described it as Cast Away before the wedding, so I was already hooked. One True Loves follows Emma Blair and the two loves of her life, her husband Jesse and her fiancé Sam.

Emma meets Jesse Lerner in high school. They fall in love, move to Los Angeles (a far cry from their hometown of Acton, Massachusetts) for college, and decide to stay out there after school. Jesse gets a job as a production assistant for nature documentaries, and Emma writes for a travel blog and freelances as well. They first bonded over the fact that they wanted to get out of Acton and travel the world. And they get to do just that, separately and together. After almost a decade together, they finally get married in Maine at Jesse’s family’s cabin. But before they can even celebrate their first anniversary, Jesse takes a job filming in Alaska. His helicopter crashes, killing all four on board. Emma is understandably devastated and falls apart. Not too much later, she decides to move back to Acton with her family.

Once she returns back home, she still is grieving, but slowly starts living her life again. She covers a few shifts at her parents’ bookstore, Blair Books, before eventually taking it over. She moves into her own townhouse in Cambridge and cuts her hair. She eventually runs into Sam Kemper, an old friend from high school. He asks her out, and she is surprised to find that she actually wants to go and agrees. Their first date goes really well, and pretty soon they fall in love, move in together, and get engaged. Sam is the one that helps her move on with her life. But then Emma gets a call from Jesse. He’s alive, and he’s coming home.

What do you do when you love both your husband and your fiancé? Emma is no longer the same person she was when she was married to Jesse, which is probably why she falls in love with Sam. Sam and Jesse are two very different men; both are wonderful in his own way. Sam is much more of a sensitive soul; he’s a music teacher and loves cats. Jesse is more adventurous, athletic, and loves traveling all over the world. Emma thought she would never love someone like she loves Jesse, and that is true. She loves Sam differently, but she still wants to spend her life with him. So how do you choose when you have more than one true love?

Once Jesse comes back, Emma is torn between the two. She loves both of them, but can only be with one. When Emma talks to her sister Marie, Marie gives her two cents and pretty much sums up the whole novel. She says, “I don’t think you’re trying to figure out if you love Sam more or Jesse more. I think you’re trying to figure out if you want to be the person you are with Jesse or you want to be the person you are with Sam.” Obviously this specifically applies to Emma's situation, but it resonates with anyone who is in love. So much of being in love is how the other person makes you feel and who you are when you are around him or her. But neither Jesse or Emma are the same person they were when they were together. Emma grieved for the loss of her husband and best friend and then eventually found a way to be happy again. Jesse suffered a horrible life-altering tragedy, so of course he is not going to be the exact same guy Emma fell in love with. They are both still in love with who they were, not who they are now. But can they find a way to work through all of that?

As Emma spends more time with Jesse after he returns, I found myself waffling on who I wanted her to end up with. Sam is much more my type, but Jesse loved Emma so much that I was torn between the two. Without giving too much of the story away, I do think Taylor Jenkins Reid made the right decision, though I think the resolution was a little hurried.

One of my favorite aspects of One True Loves was Blair Books. I love stories that are about other avid readers or bookstores. I feel like it is such a sweet meta moment. Like Howling Books in Words in Deep Blue, Blair Books plays such an important role in One True Loves. Growing up, Emma always resented the bookstore. She never liked reading and hated working shifts at the store. But once Jesse is gone, Emma finds comfort in books (only in ones where no characters die), and eventually finds herself and her calling at Blair Books.

All of Taylor Jenkins Reid's novels study love and relationships. In One True Loves, she addresses true love and how it shapes who you are. I give it 4 stars because the ending felt a little too rushed. 

Let me know which Taylor Jenkins Reid book is your favorite.

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