There is a reason THE LIGHT WE LOST was a New York Times bestseller, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, and optioned for a movie: it’s that good. Since I tore through the novel several months ago, I’ve found myself recommending it to everyone and anyone who will listen.
The power of THE LIGHT WE LOST, I think, comes from its simplicity. It’s a story that is, or could be, everyone’s. Yet what it reveals is exceptional and profound. As I was reading, I was consistently reminded of the famous John Lennon quote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
The novel begins on September 11, 2001, when Lucy meets Gabe. The plot’s starting point is not inextricably linked to all that unfolds, but it is significant and effective in reminding us of the tragedy’s unforgettable and enduring impact on our own lives.
Lucy and Gabe are both distraught by the events of 9/11, but it’s also the day their love is set in motion. Theirs is a whirlwind romance, a “wildfire,” as Lucy describes it. In one sense Lucy and Gabe are like star-crossed lovers. In another sense, as their relationship progresses, Lucy knows that what she has with Gabe—despite its consuming, unquestionable love—will never be enough to make her truly happy. Gabe is a restless dreamer; as much as he loves Lucy, his passion for photojournalism and obsession with making his life meaningful threatens to tear them apart.
With Gabe gone and the fate of their relationship a question mark, Lucy is alone again. And then there is Darren; sweet, thoughtful, steady Darren, who shows Lucy a different kind of love. If Gabe is a wildfire, Darren is a hearth fire. Which type of fire is better is one of the profound questions Santopolo poses in the novel. Perhaps such distinctive types of love aren’t even comparable.
Through Jill Santopolo’s exquisite prose and impeccable pacing, other deep-seated questions about life and relationships linger. In love, is there truly that one perfect person for everyone? Is life a series of choices we make, or is it fate unfolded?
I loved THE LIGHT WE LOST for its realness. I often felt as though I was reading about the life of a best friend. Lucy navigates the decisions of her twenties and thirties with grace and authenticity. This book made me think, cry, question, and feel deeply. In a word (or two), it’s simply unforgettable.