Sunday, April 05, 2015

Review: The Day We Met

About the Book:
For fans of Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You comes a beautifully written, heartwarming novel about mothers and daughters, husbands and wives. The Day We Met asks: Can you love someone you don’t remember falling in love with?

A gorgeous husband, two beautiful children, a job she loves—Claire’s got it all. And then some. But lately, her mother hovers more than a helicopter, her husband, Greg, seems like a stranger, and her kids are like characters in a movie. Three-year-old Esther’s growing up in the blink of an eye, and twenty-year-old Caitlin, with her jet-black hair and clothes to match, looks like she’s about to join a punk band—and seems to be hiding something. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Claire is losing her memory, including that of the day she met Greg.

A chance meeting with a handsome stranger one rainy day sets Claire wondering whether she and Greg still belong together: She knows she should love him, but she can’t always remember why. In search of an answer, Claire fills the pages of a blank book Greg gives her with private memories and keepsakes, jotting down beginnings and endings and everything in between. The book becomes the story of Claire—her passions, her sorrows, her joys, her adventures in a life that refuses to surrender to a fate worse than dying: disappearing.

My Comments:
Claire and I have something in common.  We both had babies when we were 43.  For me, it was the continuation of life as I had lived it for some time--in other words, my answer to the "Same husband?" question some people ask when finding out I have adult kids and a ten year old is "yes". Claire was the single mother of a teen when she met Greg, and when she learned she was expecting his baby, they got married.  Finally Claire thought she had it all.  Unfortunately, it didn't last.  Shortly thereafter, Claire learned she, like her father before her, had early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.   This is the story of her life in the months after her diagnosis.  

Each chapter is titled with the name of a character--usually either Claire or her daughter Caitlyn, though her mother gets a few.  Some are also titled with a date, to give the necessary backstory. The chapters are written in the first person and give that character's view of what is happening, or in the post-dated chapters, of what did happen.  We hear Claire's frustration with the limitations her disease places on her.  Her family has taken away her car keys and her house keys.  She is not allowed out without someone (and like a teen, she rebels and runs away).  She is an English teacher who one day cannot read the often repeated favorite story of her three year old.  Some days she is better than others, but the trajectory is clearly downhill.  She knows her mother and her daughters and remembers their places in her life, but even though she is told time and again that Greg is her husband, she does not remember him.  He seems nice enough but he doesn't belong.  Then, one day when she gets lost, she meets a man--a man to whom she is attracted, a man who doesn't seem to realize that she isn't all there, a man who doesn't treat her like she is ill.  Despite her increasing failing memory, she manages several rendezvous with him.

Besides being the story of Claire, it is also the story of Caitlyn, her college-age daugther,  Caitlyn had been at the university and was dating a guy with whom she was in love.  He dumped her when she found out she was pregnant.  Because of her emotional state at the time, she failed her exams and was not invited back the next term, but she hadn't told her family any of this.  Of course a pregnancy doesn't stay secret for long, and this is the story of how Caitlyn comes to terms with hers, and about how Caitlyn finds out about her father, a man she thought had rejected her as her boyfriend had rejected her baby.

I really enjoyed this book.  At the point we meet her, Claire realizes how much she has lost, and how much more she will lose before she loses the battle for her life.  I guess in some ways it is like getting the diagnosis that you have terminal cancer when your symptoms are still at the bothersome stage, as opposed to the debilitating stage.  You are annoyed by the way things are, but you know they are going to get much worse and that there isn't anything you can do about it.  The use of the first person makes the story personal in a way that using the third person would not have.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via Edelweiss.  Grade: A-

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