First Comes Love
Novels featuring feuding sisters are a dime a dozen these days. Sure, I have enjoyed many of them, but I can’t keep myself from longing for an author who can bring something unique to this well-used trope. With First Comes Love, author Emily Giffin manages to deliver something which is, if not entirely unique, still quite enjoyable.
Sisters Josie and Meredith have quarreled for as long as both can remember. They’re vastly different, and these differences create almost constant discord. Fun-loving, impulsive Josie is driven crazy by her practical, staid younger sister. In turn, Meredith can’t understand why Josie must be so self-centered, and why she just can’t settle down and take life more seriously. What neither sister realizes is that a family tragedy that took place fifteen years ago has shaped them both in irreversible ways.
Meredith, who once dreamed of spending her life on the stages of New York City, is now a lawyer, married to the best friend of her deceased elder brother, and mother of a four-year-old girl. She and Nolin have a good marriage, but there are times when Meredith finds herself longing for something more. Now, as the fifteenth anniversary of her brother Daniel’s tragic death draws near, Meredith is questioning everything about her life and finding the answers most unsatisfactory.
Josie is a first grade teacher, who shares a house with her best friend Gabe. Over the past several years, she’s been involved in a number of relationships, but none can hold a candle to the one she had with Will, the man Josie thought for sure she’d marry. Unfortunately, things ended badly between them, and now Josie finds herself struggling to deal with the presence of Will’s six-year-old daughter in her class at school. Also, Josie has become dissatisfied with the dating scene. After all, having a husband isn’t really necessary. What Josie really wants is a child, and she doesn’t need a husband for that. All she needs is a sperm donor, and she’s sure she can find one.
Meredith and Josie have dealt with Daniel’s death in very different ways. Meredith’s grief is plain for all to see, while Josie keeps her feelings inside. Now their mother wants to visit New York City, the home of Daniel’s girlfriend, whom they haven’t seen since his funeral. This brings up all manner of thoughts and feelings for the sisters, and neither finds herself coping with things very well. Each has a secret related to his death, and neither can figure out how to free herself.
Ms. Giffin has crafted a complex story of love, family, and grief. The relationships her characters share are messy, and seem incredibly real because of it. There are no easy answers for this broken family, and I loved that Ms. Giffin didn’t make it seem that there could be. Josie, Meredith, and those who love them are faced with difficult situations and even more difficult solutions, all of which seem authentic. True, stories like these aren’t uncommon, but there’s something about the way the author tells this one that sets it a little bit apart from the rest.
When I first started reading First Comes Love, I have to admit to being a bit underwhelmed by the characters. However, as I continued reading, I found myself caught up in their story. It has a certain complexity that many books like it don’t have, and that complexity is what kept me reading. I wanted to see how things would end, to find out if this family could come to terms with the tragedy that befell them all those years ago. It’s a story that hit all my emotional buttons, and I urge lovers of women’s fiction to give it a try.