Staff Review – One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

When I first heard about the movie adaptation of One True Loves, I was very interested in learning more about the story and how it would end. While I haven’t seen the movie yet (though it is available on our shelves now), I decided to read the book first. This is now my third Taylor Jenkins Reid story, so I had a feeling I would enjoy it. “One True Loves” tells the story of Emma, who married the love of her life Jesse after being together their whole adult life. On the eve of their first wedding anniversary, Jesse goes on a trip that ends in disaster. Believing her husband to be dead, Emma tries to reconcile with this great loss and continue to somehow live a life that could include love and happiness. Years later, she is happily engaged to Sam when she gets a phone call from Jesse himself. Now with a husband and a fianceé , Emma must decide what future she really wants.

The novel starts with flashbacks of Emma in high school where she first meets both Jesse and Sam. We see how her and Jesse began their relationship as teenagers, eventually marrying years later and the heartbreak that follows. Next, we see Emma piece herself back together, move back home and reacquaint herself with Sam. They fall in love easily (both previously having feelings for each other in high school). The second half of the book is set in the present time as we see Emma struggle with her feelings and desires. As a reader, I found myself attached to Sam more than Jesse, mainly because we see Sam’s relationship blossom moreso than Emma’s with Jesse. Jesse is struggling with the reality of being home and the idea that his wife (who he thought about every day for three years) has fallen for someone else, and while Sam knew the story of Jesse’s disappearance and told Emma he could never replace her first love, he struggles with the fact that that first love is alive and back in their lives.

Emma’s sister Marie points out to Emma that perhaps it isn’t a matter of who she wants to be with, but what version of herself she wants to be. Emma with Jesse was young, carefree and wild, traveling the world and leaving home as soon as possible. After Jesse’s disappearance, Emma moves back home to run the family bookshop. She learns piano, gets kittens with Sam and becomes more of a homebody. Jesse in particular struggles with this new version of the woman he loves, and I think this is really a main theme of the book. As we grow as people, the experiences we have shape who we become. It’s to be expected that we may change over time, liking new things and doing things we never thought we would (like moving back home). Deciding what type of person you want to be is no small decision.

Taylor Jenkins Reid doesn’t shy away from writing flawed characters – everyone in the story is very real and full of emotions, which can make for mistakes being made and things being said. While I didn’t always agree with Emma’s decisions as she figured out what she wanted, I can’t imagine being faced with such a decision. This novel has heart and makes readers think about what true love really means. Be sure to pick up Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves today!