Image credited to Simon & Schuster Australia
Who do you love?
Rachel Blum and Andy Landis meet when they’re eight years, in a chance meeting in a ER waiting room. Rachel is often at the hospital because of a congenital heart defect, and she helps to calm Andy down after he has broken his arm, by sharing her teddy, and a story along with a pack of mini donuts. They think that they’ll never see each other again, after Andy goes for treatment and Rachel goes back to her room.
Weiner writes from Rachel and Andy’s perspective, alternating their points of view and showing the reader what they have experienced during the years that they spend apart. The characters come back together, eight years after their initial meeting while they are both working on building houses for charity.
Rachel is created as having serious health issues from childhood, but Weiner doesn’t paint her as a victim, Rachel endeavours to be just like another teenager. She is kind, witty and connects with Andy primarily because of their mutual loneliness. Andy has long been lonely, because he is mixed race, and doesn’t feel like he fits with either the white kids or the black kids.
Andy’s escape is the fact that he’s a talented runner, and he throws himself into that, eventually becoming a Olympian. He and his mother were the sole members of their family, although it’s made clear in Andy and Rachel’s first encounter that she’s not the most attentive of mothers. She doesn’t realise where her son is until a hour later, and then makes a scene about how the hospital staff have been treating him, although they can’t legally treat him without a parent being present.
There were times that I was reminded of One Day by David Nicholls, because of the fact that Weiner tracks the couple over a number of years, and doesn’t paint them as perfect beings. They are flawed and relatable, going through many breakups and arguments before finding their place together.