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Book Review: Feel the yearn with Jill Santapolo's “The Light We Lost”

Lately, I’ve been in a “I-want-a-boyfriend-but-don’t-want-to-actually-deal-with-it” kind of slump thanks to binging Netflix’s “Bridgerton” (2020) and the “After” (2019) film. Though, my indifference has been shot down prematurely because of Jill Santapolo’s 2017 adult fiction debut.

“The Light We Lost” follows the fatedor coincidentallove story of Lucy and Gabe, who are intricately linked to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Upon meeting in their college Shakespeare seminar and finding solace in one another on 9/11, the two students vow to try and make a lasting impact on the world, no matter how small.

Although the tragedy isn’t the heart of the novel, it is a reminder of how significant national tragedy’s have been in our lives and futures, especially in the U.S.

Lucy and Gabe fall into a whirlwind romanceor a “wildfire” as Lucy describes it. Yet, sometimes love isn’t enough to be happy in life, and after a series of betrayals centered around the two lover’s career paths that take them thousands of miles apart, Lucy and Gabe drift away from each other and go on with their lives.

But, loveespecially the consuming and unconditional kindcan’t simply be forgotten or buried, so readers follow Lucy’s path into marriage and motherhood while attempting to reconcile with her long-held feelings for Gabe. After a decade or so of heartache and questioning, the climax implodes Lucy’s life and all of their choices come to a mountingand unfortunately tragicclimax.

“The Light We Lost” isn’t some fantastical story of star-crossed lovers and the power of love in all of its forms, but rather it’s a simple story of unfinished love and the “what ifs” we all experience. This could be anyone’s story, which is what makes it so deeply personal and real to the reader, no matter what their relationship status is.

It isn’t just the simplicity of the story that makes it so personalthe first-person narrative style pulls you into the story like you’re standing idly by, watching it all unfold in front of you. While I won’t spoil the ending for you, those last 10 pages of the novel will tie together everything from the first-person narration, questioning, and subtle hints scattered throughout the story.

Almost immediately, there is a level of retrospectivity that constantly asks, “What the hell happened between Lucy and Gabe?”, which of course is answered in the stunning climax that’ll make you rethink the preceding storyline.

In addition to the retrospection, Lucy also questions the gender norms and nuances of being a working woman in a world that wishes to push her into boxes she doesn’t want to be placed in. It’s refreshing to see a character confront their partners about their subtle treatment and commentary diminishing her work as a TV producer for a children’s show, whereas we often see it glossed over or forgotten in the story.

Don’t get me wrong, I adored this book and it’s little intricacies, but I was expecting to be sobbing and leaving tear stains on the pages, but it honestly barely even brought a tear to my eye. My hopes for a tear-jerker were crushed, but it was still a tragic and profound read nevertheless.

Maybe next time, I’ll shed a tear or two, but it definitely pulled me out of my “I-want-a-boyfriend-but-don’t-want-to-actually-deal-with-it” slump with its profound insights and all-consuming, larger than life love I sincerely hope everyone will experience at least once in their lifetimes.

Time to break out the tragic love stories scattered throughout my room, turn on “Pride and Prejudice” (2005), and yearn for a “wildfire” love that I’ll never get.

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