Think for a moment about the direction your life has taken, and how little it would have taken for your life to have followed a different course. Actions that at the time taken that seem small and insignificant affect the trajectory: making one particular friend, taking a certain class, going on that first date… Now imagine that you could see an alternate reality, in which one factor changed the whole outcome of your life. It would be awesome, huh? Being given glimpses of a parallel universe is what I liked best about The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry, (2016, 390 pages), although overall I didn’t like the book as much as I had hoped.
Here is the Goodreads summary:
Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.
I had high hopes for this one and at the beginning I was indeed captivated. Emily Henry is a great writer and I had to reread some paragraphs because they were so lyrical and beautiful. There are several sections in the book in which Grandmother tells a Native American folk tale to Natalie. At first I was interested in them, but by about the third one I had lost interest and merely skimmed them because it had become apparent that I was not going to see how they tied to the larger plotline of the story. Natalie spends the latter part of the book searching for Grandmother, but I was kind of hoping this dispenser of obscure stories would stay gone.
The love story that seemed highly romantic to me at the beginning of the story seemed overwrought by page 360. I think Beau was a little too macho for me. I think I would have found his character appealing when I was fifteen, but not so much now. By the end of the book I was tired of all of Natalie’s sobbing, tired of Beau’s muscles, and tired of so much embracing. But maybe I’m just tired?
I’m not against all underage drinking in YA novels per se, but I did object to the way there was SO MUCH drinking in this story. Furthermore, the way the author depicted it, in order to have a good time often the characters had to drink; worse, in order for things to be magical alcohol had to be involved.
As I noted, Natalie’s jumping back and forth between her regular life and an alternate reality was super cool, and there was some cool time travel of the moving-through-the future-at-warp-speed-variety, as Natalie stands with Beau and within just a few minutes, watches a house pass through changes of many years.
It was hard for me to find the motivation to publish this review. I’ve read and reviewed 137 time travel books over the past three years, and although a few months ago I found a few new ones I really loved, in general I’m not finding time travel books that excite me these days. However, I’ll keep searching, and suggestions are always welcome!