by Jennifer Smith
So this book was another tumblr recommendation. However, I need to start using some kind of system when I write down books I see on tumblr, because I can’t remember on whose tumblr I saw it recommended. Ah well.
This was a fun book. The story was well-paced. I’m not a huge fan of present-tense stories, but it worked with this one to help clarify when the story was in present tense and when it was a flashback/background.
Basically, the book is about a girl, Hadley, who is flying to England for her dad’s wedding, and she’s quite unhappy about it because she’s still really upset that he left in the first place, much less that he is now (two years later) marrying the woman for whom he left Hadley’s mother. And to top off an already bad day, Hadley misses her flight and has to take the next one. While waiting for the second flight, she meets a young man, Oliver, who is from England but has been in the States going to college. They hit it off and begin to talk, and their seats are next to each other on the plane. The book documents a 24-hour period (well, sort of… it has plenty of stories from Hadley’s past, too), and the pacing is excellent.
For me, the most unbelievable thing is that Hadley truly hates her dad so much that she is only going to fly to London for ONE DAY and then turn around and fly home again?! I don’t care how much you hate your dad–you’re passing up seeing a different country just because you’re torqued off!?
Overall, this book was a high 3/5. I really enjoyed the story, but I disagreed with the “lessons” on marriage/relationships/affairs that one gleans from the book. More on that below; but there are some spoilers as well–
Okay, so basically Hadley is super mad at her dad this whole book because he left her mom. Originally, he was just going to teach at Oxford for four months and then come back home to Connecticut, but he never came back. While in England, he met and fell in love with another woman, Charlotte, whom he is now marrying.
On the plane, Hadley gripes about her dad to Oliver, who also doesn’t really like his dad. However, eventually Hadley finds out that the reason Oliver is flying back to England is because Oliver’s dad has died and Oliver is going to his funeral. When Hadley and Oliver meet back up (through a convoluted adventure–like I said, this book was actually a lot of fun), Oliver tells Hadley that she should be thankful that her dad left.
“You think your dad is so awful for what he did? At least your dad was honest. Your dad had the guts not to stick around. And I know that’s rubbish, too, but from what it sounds like, he’s happy, and your mum’s happy, and so you’re all better off in the end anyway. … But my dad? He cheated on my mum for years. Your dad had one affair, and that turned into love, right? It turned into marriage. It was out in the open, and it set you all free. Mine had about a dozen affairs, maybe more, and the worst part is, we all knew. And nobody talked about it. Somewhere along the line, someone made the decision that we’d all just be quietly miserable, and so that’s what we did.”
(Hadley’s mother, by the way, has found someone else that she loves and and he’s a super nice guy, which is why Oliver says that Hadley’s mom is happy, too.)
So, after this conversation with Oliver, Hadley starts to look at her dad’s situation differently, yadda yadda, and in the end she forgives him and even starts to see that Charlotte is a nice lady, too, and decides that of course she’ll come visit her dad and maybe they can patch things up.
Here’s the thing, though. What you’re left with is that there are two options if you are married and you start to feel attracted to someone who isn’t your spouse: you can either leave your spouse and follow your (new) true love, or you can stay married and sneak out on your spouse and poison your entire family through your slyness. To me, in the end, this book basically just said: Affairs are okay, as long as they end with everyone being happy. Or in other words, Just do whatever it is that makes you happy.
And you know what? Life isn’t always about you being happy. Being married isn’t always about you being happy. Life, and marriage especially, is about sacrifice and commitment. There was a point when Hadley’s dad made a choice to fall in love with Charlotte and leave behind his wife of 20+ years and his teenage daughter. He did not have to make that choice. Hadley’s response wasn’t completely healthy, and I’m super glad that she decided to make up with her dad and adjust to her life’s new parameters, but I just can’t agree with a book that wraps up adultery with a nice new-marriage-and-everyone-now-has-their-special-someone-so-we’re-all-happy-and-everything-is-fine bow.
Adultery is wrong. That’s just the end of it. When you get married, you’ve committed to that person for life. It’s not a breezy-easy whatever kind of thing, and Hadley’s dad did his family no favors by “having the guts to not stick around.” He was a weak, cowardly, dishonest, cheating liar. Just because everyone eventually ends up happy in a different way does not justify his actions at all.
So, those are my thoughts. A fun little book, but for me, a rather sugar-coated poison pill of the “do whatever it takes to be happy” variety.