'Grief is a mystery to be lived through, not a problem to be solved.'

I picked up First Comes Love by Emily Giffin with a lot of trepidation. I'd always been a fan of her books... until her last one. It's been three years since I finished it, and I could still rage about it. Don't even get me started. So, as you can imagine, I started this one with lower expectations. Thankfully, it felt like a return to the type of Giffin novel that I love! I'm often not a fan of her characters' actions, but I still typically lose myself in her stories.

Despite my anger over her previous book, I still pre-ordered this one. I'm not sure why exactly, though I think it's partly because it's about sisters. That's a topic that I'm typically drawn to in books. Plus, I figured I'd only truly hated one out of her seven books - pretty good track record, all things considered. So, I decided to chose First Comes Love for September's Picky Pledge Reading Challenge prompt, "A Book You Pre-Ordered... But Haven't Read Yet." Despite the leap of faith I took by pre-ordering it, I kept putting it off out of fear I'd hate it.

First Comes Love is the story of two sisters - Josie and Meredith - whose relationship fractures in the aftermath of a family tragedy. Josie was always the outgoing and impulsive sister whereas Meredith was more reserved and cautious. They end up on different paths in life, but they're both dissatisfied with where they're at. Josie is ready to swear off dating but still longs to become a mother, and Meredith appears to have the perfect life (great job, husband, and daughter) but wonders if she gave up on her dreams. As the fifteen year anniversary of their family's loss approaches, it forces the sisters to face the issues that have divided them all these years.

More so than any other Giffin novel I've read, this is primarily a story about family and sibling relationships. There isn't much romance to speak of, and I actually appreciated that about it. I loved the family dynamics, even when it meant I wanted to smack one (or both!) of the sisters. Giffin continues to write flawed, complicated women who aren't always likeable. If you need to root for the characters to enjoy a story, this probably isn't the book for you. One of the quotes I highlighted might help you understand what I mean:
“I find myself wondering which is more egregious, to pretend to be happy when you’re not, or to feel so consistently dissatisfied when you should be happy.”
Both sisters have moments where their dissatisfaction with their lives feels so selfish and spoiled. However, I liked the way Giffin explored their emotions, their choices, and the way grief and loss changed them. But one of the best parts of this book was the way it portrayed the patterns you can get into in your relationships, especially within a family. The book showed the assumptions you make, the grudges you hold, the guilt you carry and the way you can see a sibling as they used to be and not necessarily as they are now... I enjoyed getting both Josie and Meredith's perspectives because it truly illustrated how there are two sides to every story.

There are a few things I didn't like about the book, but they weren't major issue. The plot was occasionally boring or too slow, and I did feel like it ended right when things were getting truly interesting. I'd actually love a sequel to find out what happens next for these sisters! And I have one super nitpicky annoyance with a phone-related thing that I would swear didn't exist in the time period where it was referenced. But the emotional and relational aspects made up for the negatives for me overall, and I'd recommend this book to fans of stories about complicated families, sisters and dealing with grief and forgiveness.
Release Date: June 2016 | Publisher: Random House; Ballantine Books
Pages: 384 pages | Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover 

This was my ninth read for The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge that Alexa and I are doing in 2017! It's the perfect motivation to read books from my TBR and adds an extra dose of accountability, too. In addition to reading and reviewing one challenge book per month, we're answering three questions about each one!

1. How long has this book been on your TBR? 
I've owned it since the day it came out - June 28, 2016. But I knew I wanted to read it as soon as it was announced!

2. Why did you want to pre-order this book?
I've read everything else that Emily Giffin has written! Although I hated her previous book, I've enjoyed the other books I've read (some more than others, of course) and was hoping this would be a winner. I was also drawn to the summary because I like stories about sisters.

3. Did you get any pre-order goodies?
I didn't! I don't think they offered any, and even if they had I probably wouldn't have filled out the information to receive them. I almost never remember to do it in time.

1 comment

  1. I like the idea of the Picky Pledge Reading Challenge. Anything to whittle down the ever-growing TBR list helps!


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