Love Means Growing Up: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Originally posted July 2017

Want a five word review? It’s a great beach read.

Jill Santopolo’s “The Light We Lost” is an easy-to-get-lost-in read, meant to pull at your heartstrings and have you comparing it to “Me Before You.”

The book’s protagonist and sole narrator, Lucy Carter, begins the story as a college student in New York City and finishes the tale a married mother of three, with a successful career as a television producer. In the end, I think we are supposed to weep for her. A little? A Lot? Depends on the reader and your take on romantic relationships of all kinds — in this case, those that lead to a life together.

The love of Lucy’s life is Gabe, a fellow college student with whom she first collides on 9/11. The horror of the moment kickstarted a relationship that satisfied an immediate, urgent need to feel connected to another human being and which manifested in heated passion. Not a bad way to start out a relationship, for sure, but that level of emotional intimacy is difficult to sustain long term.

I’m not giving up too much of the plot when I say that of course, the fates and a healthy dose of selfishness conspire to keep Gabe and Lucy apart, long enough for her to meet her husband, Darren. The bulk of the book centers around Lucy’s consistent, though intermittent pull toward Gabe, even when life with Darren couldn’t be better.

Who does she end up with? Ah, but if I give it away then there’s no need to put this in your beach bag, right? The drama is what makes it worthy of time on a towel with some sand between your toes. So, I’ll leave the synopsis at that, except to say this: not all great loves come with hot sex on kitchen floors and in restaurant bathrooms. Nor should they. From a reader’s perspective, there was more than one time I wanted to take Lucy by her shoulders and shake her. Hard. And tell her that the love of her life might actually be the guy willing to take the shit-covered baby out of your arms so you can shower.

I’m paraphrasing, but there’s a great line from, ironically, a “You’re soulmate is waiting” movie, “Serendipity,” in which a girlfriend tells the woman at her wits’ end searching for her soulmate to stop the chase and focus on the man she’s already engaged to. “It’s not giving up,” she says, “It’s growing up.” Listen, all you destiny freaks: no truer words have been spoken.

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