IF I NEVER MET YOU
Friends, Mhairi McFarlane does it again. She is officially one of my favorite authors of all time. Why, you ask? Because she writes characters that are real, with problems and trauma and complexity that you can relate to.
In If I Never Met You, Laurie faces the one thing she never imagined and never prepared for: her boyfriend of eighteen years leaving her for another woman. In an unexpected instant, the life she built over almost two decades comes crumbling down and she's left reeling in the aftermath. And as if being dumped isn't bad enough, as if working for the same law firm and seeing her ex regularly isn't enough torture, her ex's new girlfriend is also pregnant. Laurie becomes the focus of the office gossip. When the elevator in her building breaks down and she's stuck inside with Jamie, the office Lothario, they start an unlikely friendship. It turns out, they might both be able to give each other something they desperately want: Laurie wants to show that she's over her ex and can move on with her life (and of course, make him jealous) and Jamie needs to prove he can have a respectable girlfriend for longer than a night so the he can move his career forward. But what happens when a fake relationship starts to feel real?
If you're looking for a swoon-worthy, deeply romantic, sexy or steamy read, this one isn't for you. Truth be told, Mhairi McFarlane is probably not the author for you if you want a book that makes your heart take flight with cute butterflies. If I Never Met You isn't focused on the relationship between Laurie and Jamie. It's not centered around traditional romance. This book, like her others, hits on hard topics and characters go through tough shit. What happens when the person you've built your life with fucks off after two decades? How do you enter into dating again and start a new life? How do you come to terms with the person you knew and loved blindsiding you? As someone in their 30s and out of the dating world for a decade, I can't imagine getting on Tinder to meet people and experience the ride of being ghosted. What happens when you work in a male-dominated field and the men are constantly in a pissing contest over you, constantly weighing in on what you do, how you act, how you feel, etc.?
"I think women spend a lot of time beating themselves up about how they caused or deserved male behavior, and it doesn't happen anything like the same way in reverse. They get on with doing what they wanna do."
These aren't the only issues broached in the book: we also read of grief and how perfectionism can be a result of trauma, a way to compensate after huge loss and to control outcomes in the future, a way to give yourself a sense of control in the unpredictable universe. There's familial struggle: when your family treats you like shit, do you just suck it up because they're family and let it go?
"Those who said family mattered above all else were wrong. People who you love, who love you back, matter above all. Crap people you happen to be related to: you need to stop thinking you owe them a limitless number of chances to hurt you."
Don't read this book because you want cute romance in your life. Read it because you want to read about characters that you can relate to, because you want to laugh, because you want to read about friendship, because you want to read a book with a strong female lead that overcomes misogyny, racism, and heartbreak without sacrificing herself. If I Never Met You will pull you out of any reading slump because it's well-written with characters you'll remember.