My whole career is tied up in love. I read 2-3 romance novels a week, some to review, some to beta, and some just because. Romantic love moves me like nothing else, yet I forget how amazing a story about family and friendship can be. I was reminded of it this weekend by Emily Giffin in her latest novel, First Comes Love.
I found myself caught up in the story of a family unable to move on after the death of oldest child, Daniel, in a tragic car accident 15 years before. With his death his younger sisters, Josie and Meredith, spiraled into lives filled with resentment towards each other, secrets, and rocky relationships as they both try to fill the hole he left in their family.
The story is told in the alternating, 1st person POV of the two sisters. It was fascinating to delve into the minds of two such different women bound together by grief and family. Josie, still single at 37, teaches 1st grade and lives with her best friend, Gabe. Incapable of maintaining a romantic relationship, the outgoing Josie wants what her sister has: a loving husband and beautiful daughter. Meredith, two years younger, has always been moody. She gave up her dreams of being an actress to make her parents happy, eventually marrying Daniel’s best friend, Nolan. She resents Josie for always doing exactly what she wants and that resentment comes to a head when Josie decides she’s tired of waiting for Mr. Right and begins the process of having a child through a sperm donor.
I’ve always enjoyed Giffin’s style, her books are quick reading, yet heavy with emotions and life lessons. Seems like a dichotomy, but she pulls it off. From the prologue, the reader is tied to these two women and their journey towards happiness. At the center of their journey is their brother, who died having found happiness. He was fulfilling his dream of becoming a doctor and had met the woman he wanted to marry. Yet his sisters seem incapable of doing the same, their decisions and choices wrapped up in thoughts of what Daniel would do and how they can compensate for the loss of their brother.
“I know by now that you can’t control your life, no matter how hard you try. That inevitably people leave and disappoint and die. But there is one constant, one thing you can always count on: that not only does love come first, but in the end, it is the only thing that matters.”
The story is brilliant in its obviousness. Fiction would like its characters to leave loss in the past or see loss as the catalyst to achieve all life’s successes and dreams. Giffin, however, shows us loss in its true form, a hole that can never really be filled. Yet, through Josie and Meredith, we see how once we face our losses head on, hope sneaks through-and if we let it-how love can fortify that hope and guide us through the pain towards happiness.
First Comes Love is rich in its portrayals. Both Josie and Meredith establish quick connections with the readers. Nolan, Meredith’s husband, and Gabe, Josie’s best friend, are slower to make an impact but become an important part of the story and strong characters in their own right. There are peripheral characters that come and go, but none wasted as they’re important to the story, especially Sophie, Daniel’s girlfriend at the time of his death.
Love finds us in many forms. Yes, there’s romantic love, but First Comes Love gives the reader the gift of love within friendships, the love that stems from being a parent and a child, and, eventually, love between siblings. Don’t forget the tissues.
4.5 Stars for First Comes Love. Heat level: 0.5
I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback.
First Comes Love was published in June 2016 by Ballantine Books.