One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2016), narrated by Julia Whelan
Three and a half years later, Emma is back in Massachusetts and has moved on with her life. She works in her parents' bookstore and she's newly engaged to a wonderful guy named Sam. And then Jesse is found, alive, and he's coming back for Emma.
What a torturous premise for a book! I love it! The best part about this is that Jesse and Emma had a really really fantastic life together and were madly in love. His death destroyed her. She couldn't function for a really long time. But finally, she realized that although he was dead, she was still alive, and deserved - and needed - to move on. When she ran into Sam, a guy she knew back in high school, she couldn't believe her good fortune at finding love for a second time. Sam is also a really wonderful guy. So when Jesse returns, it isn't at all obvious what she should do or who she should be with. It's Jesse who she has grieved for all these years, who she never wanted to be separated from. But what about Sam? He hasn't done anything wrong and doesn't deserve to be abandoned. It's really kind of an impossible situation and I couldn't get enough of it.
I love everything about Emma and her family and friends. Her parents own a bookstore and always wanted one of their daughters to run it, but that was going to be Emma's sister Marie. The two women weren't ever close until after Jesse went missing and then Marie went through a rough time and they really bonded and became good friends. Her best friend was Olive, who she had been friends with since high school and they kept in touch even though they lived far apart. I like how Emma's trajectory took her away from her hometown but then brought her back there later.
And the two men! Jesse was adventurous and passionate and shared Emma's desire to get away from their little town and see the world. Sam stayed there after high school and became a music teacher. The life he and Emma built together was totally different from her previous lifestyle, but great in a different way.
My ONLY issue with this book has to do with Jesse's time away when he was missing. When he tells his story, the time doesn't add up - it's been 3.5 years, but his story only covers a little over 2 years. I don't want to give too much away, but it also wasn't very realistic. However, I was willing to suspend disbelief because that's not really what the story was about - it was about Emma's dilemma.
Also, Emma is one of those heroines who doesn't eat when she's upset, which is one of my pet peeves. But then she'll realize she didn't eat all day and is starving and she'll hork down a whopper and fries. So I forgive her. If I was Emma, I would have been totally stress eating my way through this whole situation. I knew what I wanted her to do. But I knew before I even started the book, because of the way I look at the situation, so obviously this is just my mindset and I had no idea if that is at all what Emma would do. It was very anxiety-producing and I wasn't even the one having to figure out something so impossible.
Despite being a librarian and reading a ton of book reviews and book blogs and listening to book podcasts, the only place I heard about this book was on the Perpetual Page-Turner blog. I read her review and was like GIVE ME IT NOW. How had I not heard of this author before? She has a few other books and I'm especially interested in After I Do, which I will likely also listen to on audio. By the way, the narrator was great, and this was one of those audiobooks that made it possible for me to run two miles without dying, so thank you Taylor Jenkins Reid and Julie Whelan for contributing to my physical fitness.