Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious, relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing, Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes, their delicate bond splinters.
Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single–and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother–a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter is assigned to her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.
On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.
As the anniversary of their tragedy looms, and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover that they need each other more than they knew–and that in the search for true happiness, love always comes first.
(True Rating: 2.5 Stars)
Emily Giffin has long been one of my favorite women’s fiction authors, but something was missing in this one. The writing was well-done as always, and the characters interesting, but it failed to snag my heart.
Neither Josie nor Meredith seemed like a real person to me. I had to keep reminding myself that Josie was 38, not 22, because honestly she acted like a very young, immature person. It was hard not to think of her as unstable when she constantly obsessed over her ex of eight years. And Meredith . . . Meredith is difficult, as I see a lot of my own negative personality quirks in her, but there’s nothing redemptive about her as a character. She spends her life being angry at everyone and everything, constantly justifying poor treatment of her sister, her husband, and even her small daughter.
It was hard to like either of them, although Josie has a slight edge because she’s not constantly miserable. Their relationship was just awful. A book with a setup like this had me braced for a new, reimagined version of Jennifer Weiner’s In Her Shoes, which does a great job of showing a contentious sister relationship, but here there just didn’t seem to be a good reason for why these women hated so many people–and each other. They’re both obsessed over things that have happened in the past. Josie’s still mad because her ex-boyfriend broke up with her over a misunderstanding eight years ago (although honestly, I don’t blame him). Meredith and Josie both are mad because the woman who had just started dating their brother FIFTEEN YEARS PRIOR has had the audacity to move on with her life. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
As another reviewer pointed out, sources of conflict seem to fade in and out. First Will and Andrea, then Pete, then Leslie, then Nolan, then . . . There is no moment of resolution at the end that ties all lose ends together, as I’ve come to expect in a Giffin novel. It simply ends.
I wanted to like this book, because again I’m a Giffin fan from way back, but for a book called First Comes Love, I have to say love was shockingly absent from both the characters and the plot. The 2.5 stars I’ve given here are for the strength of the writing and pacing alone.
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.