Julie Buxbaum’s terrific debut novel, The Opposite of Love, is about 29 year old Manhattan attorney Emily Haxby. The story begins as Emily breaks up with Andrew, her boyfriend of two years with whom she’s had a happy, comfortable, passionate relationship, just as he seems to be on the verge of proposing marriage.
No one understands this; not her friends, not her family, and she can’t articulate it very well to anybody. We soon learn it’s not about the awesome Andrew- it has everything to do with Emily; her fear of being left has forced her to push him away. “You’re your own worst enemy,” her best friend Jess tells her. “It’s like you get pleasure out of breaking your own heart.”
Emily’s outwardly enviable life is a little messy just below the surface. Emily’s job for a high powered law firm is sucking the life out of her, and her married boss is harassing her. She has trouble connecting with others-communication is not her special talent. Losing her mother to cancer at 14, Emily and her dad grew apart and shut down emotionally. Grandpa Jack stepped in to pick up the slack and became her sole support system, and now her beloved grandpa has been diagnosed with Alzhiemers.
As her grandpa’s health declines and her career falls apart, Emily braces herself for more loss. Her dad, the lieutenant governor of Connecticut, is too busy and too in denial to help care for her grandpa, so decisions about his care fall to her. Motherless Emily needs guidance and she finds it in the form of Ruth, a wise retired judge and friend of her Grandpa Jack, who encourages her to live her life fully and take chances.
Bottom Line: I really liked The Opposite of Love! I cared about Emily and related to her complicated mess of conflicted feelings. The writing is solid and the story, while light in some ways, is not fluffy. There are very funny parts, but it is the kind of humor I like best- wry and sarcastic and intelligent. It has a lot to say about relationships, communication, love, and loss. Book clubs would find a lot to talk about (discussion questions can be found HERE) and the author is available for Q & A’s via email or chats.
I can’t wait to see The Opposite of Love on the big screen next year starring Anne Hathaway as Emily (fantastic casting!). It’ll make a really good movie, but read it first. As they say, the book is always better.
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