Originally published December 2019
Just when you think your adolescent relationships were messy — here comes Connell and Marianne.
“Normal People” by Sally Rooney resides on a number of “Best of 2019” lists this month, and it was sitting on my nightstand for at least the last four months — always the bridesmaid, never the bride when it came to what I grabbed next off the pile. So I was compelled to read it before year’s end if for no other reason to see what all the buzz was about.
It did not disappoint. On the heels of another great tale of young love gone wrong, Trust Exercise, I was committed to the story of young love from the get go. That said, as I slammed the book down upon completion, in front of my family, yelling, “What the hell? Does he go to New York or not?!?!?!” … I can’t say I was completely satisfied with the ending.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just is what it is — sometimes, the best stories are the ones that leave us wanting more.
Connell and Marianne bring to their relationship a whole new level of anxiety and confusion and, well, honesty — even if it’s ugly. Drawn together initially as teenagers sharing a secret affection, wrong moves and misinterpretations serve as mile markers throughout their college years. At the same time, for as much as these two seem to damage one another, they also propel each other through emotionally dark times. Both need to grow to learn they are indeed worthy of love, despite what they think.
There’s likely a little of Connell or Marianne in everyone, when you look back at your high school and college years. Each so painfully, painfully insecure. Ugh, you couldn’t pay me enough money to go back to those days. Rooney does an exquisite job of flashing out those feelings of wanting to hide inside a crowd yet be loved ore than anything else all at the same time.
A relatively short read, if the story grips you, you’ll finish it in a day or a weekend. Easy to follow, and as mentioned above, a finish that’ll leave you wanting at least an afterward.