This book surprised me, delighted me and broke my heart. It was not at all what I expected, but was all the more special for that. Cleverly, Serle wrong foots the reader into thinking this is a straight forward boy-girl romance, but it isn’t. It is about love though and our heroine Dannie is sometimes unsure what love looks like. My experience reading this book showed me that I sometimes overlook love, when reading and in my own life. We’re used to reading certain conventions in a love story and have expectations about how that story will unfold. This novel teaches us that sometimes, when we’re looking for that special someone, we don’t notice or fully appreciate the love we already have.
Dannie is a corporate lawyer, living in Manhattan and dating the eminently eligible David. David and Dannie live together after dating for two years. They have done everything according to an unspoken timetable; everything about their relationship is planned and just right. In fact their relationship is so predictable that when David suggests dinner at the Rainbow Room, Dannie knows he’s going to propose. She says yes when he presents the perfect engagement ring, but they don’t plan their wedding. They continue to drift along as they are, until Dannie has the dream.
This vivid dream shows a loft apartment in Dumbo with interior design details such as an art print of an optician’s chart with a witty slogan. It’s nowhere Dannie has imagined living. It’s trendy and edgy. She and David live in Gramercy Park. A perfect location for their work and where they are in life. Yet, the Dumbo apartment feels comfortable. Then a man appears. She’s never met him before but yet there is a connection, something she can’t define. As he moves closer she feels actual electricity. She has never felt this before. Like some huge force compels them to be together. When she wakes, Dannie feels strange. Like she’s questioning everything around her.
She has planned to see her friend Bella. They have been friends since boarding school and are still incredibly close. Bella takes more risks than Dannie and in some ways Dannie sees her as someone who doesn’t finish things. Bella loves art, she lives to travel and has a more bohemian outlook on life. Dannie has a more settled and perhaps, conventional life where work is the priority and her stable relationship with David simply ticks along. Up until now Bella hasn’t had a stable relationship in her life, but she has brought someone important to meet Dannie. When he walks in, Dannie is shocked to see the man from her dream. She panics and decides to do everything she can to stop her dream from coming true. But life can take strange turns and a series of events unfold that she never imagined. They make her rethink everything about how to live life and how to love.
I became so involved with Dannie and Bella’s story that it was hard to put the book down towards the end. The story crept up on me from something very light to an emotional tale about the strength of female friendship. These girls are life partners. Their presence sustains each other in ways that romantic relationships sometimes don’t. Bella’s mother lets slip that she purposely placed her daughter in the same school as Dannie, because she saw them together and could not part them. The very structure of the book teaches the reader something. We learn, at the same time as Dannie, that the happy ending is not always about a man, because love comes in many forms. Also, that loss and love are the same thing. When we grieve it just proves how much we loved. I found myself becoming very emotional towards the end of the book and that rarely happens. I found the writing so truthful and similar to my own experience of grief that I had a lump in my throat. I loved the ending and the fact it wasn’t predictable elevated the book above the ordinary. I will be hugging my friends a little closer and appreciating all the people in my life who love me.