by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Jennifer E. Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) is a love story about all kinds of love. It's about romantic love, about the love between parents and their children. It's about love that focuses on words and love that focuses on actions more than words.
And I loved this love story.
It begins in an airport, where Hadley Sullivan misses her flight by minutes. She's already conflicted—she's flying to London for her father's marriage to a woman she's never met—and her mindset is not the most positive . . . especially when it comes to thinking about love.
She meets Oliver when he steps up to help watch her luggage, and then they end up sitting next to each other on the plane. Hadley is drawn to Oliver immediately, and their banter is so much fun. Though Hadley's no fan of love, everything around her seems to be conspiring to make her think about it, including the sweet elderly lady on the plane who's been with her husband for most of her lifetime and dispenses some lovely wisdom:
“When you’re on the other side of it," she says, "fifty-two years can seem like about fifty-two minutes. . . . Just like when you’re young and in love, a seven-hour plane ride can seem like a lifetime.”
When Hadley and Oliver get separated at the London airport, she's resigned to never seeing him again but also heart broken.
He’s like a song she can’t get out of her head. Hard as she tries, the melody of their meeting runs through her mind on an endless loop, each time as surprisingly sweet as the last, like a lullaby, like a hymn, and she doesn’t think she could ever get tired of hearing it.
The novel's synopsis focuses most on Hadley and Oliver, and their story is quite sweet, but I absolutely loved the parts of the novel that focused on their fathers.
Since her parents' separation, Hadley has had a hard time forgiving her father. He went to London for the chance to teach there, briefly, and never came home. When Hadley learned that it's because he fell in love with Charlotte, she has a hard time forgiving his betrayal of her mother and of Hadley herself.
Because she and her dad were so close, wrapped up in a relationship composed of books and words, of beautiful views and shared memories, of the rituals that govern every family, Hadley feels his decision to move across an ocean as choosing, very deliberately, to leave her. The presence of a few symbolic objects—a copy of Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, an elephant from Hadley's childhood—are physical reminders of the relationship that Hadley feels has ended. And yet, her father is a part of her.
The stories had become a part of her by then; they stuck to her bones like a good meal, bloomed inside of her like a garden.
I went into Smith's book not really believing in love at first sight, and that hasn't really changed. But the relationships here go beyond first sight, building upon shared experiences and empathy and the willingness to be vulnerable and to share an important story with someone else.
(Note: We'll be reviewing the Netflix adaptation, Love at First Sight, on Patreon in October. Click here for more info!)
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