Chris and Kathryn have been together for nine years when Chris develops a crush on Emily, a young woman he meets at the laundromat. “You should ask her out,” Kathryn says. And instead of 250 pages of unbearable garbage, Peterson somehow pieces together a book that feels like holding a baby bird in your hands–terrifying, precious, and wonderful. She carefully pries open a complicated situation, showing you all the subtle inner workings of the people involved with a light and loving touch.
Peterson adds pieces to her characters slowly, nudging the reader’s perception of a character in ways that are both consistent and surprising. I’m reluctant to share any of her slow revelations, because timing and phrasing are so integral to their success; but every slight turn of the characters made me more desperately fond of them.
It’s very easy to feel love for this book, because it is a book about love–love that alters, love that gently breaks away from a safe and static thing and steps out on a tightrope for the chance of additional blessings, outcome not guaranteed. I don’t think I’d love the book if Kathryn and Chris didn’t love each other, if Kathryn and Emily didn’t like one another, if Emily and Chris weren’t so nervously delighted in each other. But the characters care deeply, and the author does, too–and that integrity of affection shines out of the pages.
I picked up a debut novel with no preamble or advance praise to guide me, and I was lucky: I found something truly lovely inside. Peterson’s characters breathe so warmly, so believably, that I find myself wanting to reach out and take their hands and tell them how good they are. Come and meet them–they’ll be good for your heart, too.