Love and Other Words
This is classified as “adult fiction” and I have no idea why. It’s contemporary romance with more angst than anything else, but it’s not not romance.
There are some people who meet the loves of their life early in their journey and it’s almost as if their souls imprint on each other. Such is the case for Macy and Elliot in Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren. The story, told in current time and flashbacks, shows us both that imprinting process and the fallout of what happens when they spend a decade apart after a series of unfortunate events. Heavy on the angst and introspection, this read is a must for fans of emotional tales with happily ever afters.
When we meet Macy Sorenson in current time, she’s engaged to Sean, but we’re quickly told through her best friend Sabrina that this is a bad idea. It’s not that Sean is a bad guy, it’s just… he’s nothing to Macy, not really. But then again, no one has been anything to Macy for the last ten years. We know from the first pages of the book that her mother died when she was young, and within a few subsequent pages we learn that her father died sometime between high school and present time. Sabrina appears to be her lifeline to reality – a grounding presence and the only family Macy has.
The plot kicks off with the two of them in a coffee shop. Macy is on a rare break from her job as a resident in the NICU of a San Francisco hospital and is enjoying the time with Sabrina and her infant daughter. Then, she notices a man who seems arrestingly familiar and her world falls apart. Elliot Petropoulos has no idea why Macy stopped speaking to him ten years ago, but has never stopped loving her. When he sees her in that coffee shop, every instinct from his childhood that she was ‘the one’ is confirmed.
Over the next few hundred pages, we meet teenage Macy and Elliot while also seeing the fallout of their recent meeting. When the two originally met, Macy and her father were reeling from the sudden death of Macy’s mother. While they lived in Berkeley during the week, they purchased a weekend/summer home in the small town of Healdsburg so that Macy could have a space to breathe a little. Elliot and Macy first bonded over words in books, and then fell in love over them. For most of the book we don’t know what happened to get us to where we are now, and that tension is both infuriating and delicious.
I could write pages about Macy as a character. Rarely have I felt such a protective pull to a fictional human. The daughter of a Danish father and a Brazilian mother, she is so clearly living a half life. Losing her mother at the age of eleven froze part of her, then losing Elliot, then losing her dad. I’m so grateful she had Sabrina, but holy cats that is a rough life. As we get more and more pieces of her, I want to gather her in my arms and congratulate her for getting this far but telling her, yes, there is so much more for her. Spoiler alert: Elliot does that for me.
I honestly cannot understand why this is labelled as woman’s fiction and not as contemporary romance, except that the former may cause bookstores to stock it differently. There is no way this book can end without a happily ever after, and we know that from the early pages because if Christina Lauren set up this whole thing to keep Elliot and Macy apart, they would be masochists and I would personally come for them. Yes, a lot of time is spent on Macy’s emotional development – the entire book is told from her PoV – and it is a book I can see being weepy for some folks, but this is still a romance.
I’m not a fan of angst so thick it feels like suspense, and my patience for waiting for the explanation was tested a few times. Otherwise, I flew through this book and felt properly satisfied at the end. The strength of the bond between Macy and Elliot may feel incredulous to some, but considering who they were to each other in their teens, I bought it. Overall, I recommend this for fans of coming of age tales, angst, friends to lovers, and explorations of home.