I’m starting to realize that every book I will review on here will probably be one of those “just do it” books with no real review necessary, including the one below. You’ll just have to take my word for it. But if my word isn’t good enough (and WHY not??), I’ll keep doing reviews to keep my readers satisfied. My legions of readers. (Hi, Kirstin.)
The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum is up there in my top five favorite books all time. I’d even go as far to say top three. Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin (yes, people, GIFFIN. Not Griffin.) and The Opposite of Love both hold an extremely special place in my heart because their heroines are completely wonderful and I feel that they are me. And this is cool.
I picked up The Opposite of Love not too long after I went through a terrible break up. Gut-wrenching, to be honest. I had been, in fact, been in a relationship before for a much longer period of time, but I was the dumper for that relationship’s demise, not the dumpee as I was this time. This book was so awful to read yet so perfect.
The main character, Emily Haxby, is a lawyer at a big law firm. (My favorite books seem to involve lawyers as the main character. I work in lawsuits. Coincidence? Probably not at all. Just thought I’d point it out.) She technically hates her job, but doesn’t really know it because she just doesn’t really feel anything. She has a perfect-beyond-perfect boyfriend named Andrew who she dumps right in the beginning of the book because…because…well, you’ll find out her underlying reasons throughout the book, but basically she dumps him because she knows he’s going to propose to her. For some reason, this is deplorable to Emily. Her friends think she’s nuts, her grandfather (Grandpa Jack!) thinks she’s nuts, and so does her grandfather’s BA lady friend Ruth (a former attorney).
Emily, on the other hand, is “blah” about the whole situation. She is a lot like me in that she’s bubbly on the outside, possibly, or even maybe not bubbly, but content on the outside, but inside, it’s a whole ‘nother story. I feel that a lot of women (maybe even men? I don’t know. never been a dude) can relate to this. Not to quote Buffy songs, but Emily’s definitely “going through the motions” in her life and is completely lost.
I think the overarching theme in the book is lost and losing. Lost in your direction, lost in love, lost in life, lost in mind. Losing your direction, losing your love, losing your life, losing your mind. The characters are all complex and I love that. I have read this book about 10 times now and it never fails to surprise me and suck me in. No pun intended, I get “lost” in this book. Emily is so self-deprecating, yet has bitter humor, and that is what I relate to. She is real.
Her emotions, when she lets them happen, are complex and real as well. If you’ve ever been through a break-up, you can relate to her. (Yes, I realize most of my descriptions of characters are that they’re “relatable” and “real,” but you know what, sorry I’m not sorry, this is what I love about books.) To quote one section of the book where I literally sobbed and choked on my own tears and saliva:
“I miss Andrew so much that I stop and keel over and put my head between my knees. I miss Andrew so much, I begin to rock back and forth, hugging myself to make it stop. I miss Andrew so much that I throw up in the bathroom, emptying my body into the bowl in one violent motion. I miss Andrew so much, I flush it all away.”
I mean, UGH. That hollowness. When you fall asleep (finally) and you wake up in the morning, completely fine, until you remember again that they’re gone. And you’re hollow again. This doesn’t just pertain to a break up. A death can punch you like this times 100. Sometimes I dream about my grandparents (by sometimes, I mean like every dream is set inside their house) and I wake up, happy, until I remember again that they’ve been gone for 10 years. And I am hollow again. It’s strange when you feel something so strongly and then it’s put into words and you feel it again, but it’s not so bad. Because someone else feels it, too.
Another quote (I swear I’m not spoiling anything):
The opposite of love isn’t hate; it isn’t even indifference. It’s f*cking disembowelment.
Sigh. Love. Ain’t it grand.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a love story in the traditional sense. It focuses on Emily and her lost love, but also on so much more. Her love for her deceased mother. Her Grandpa Jack. For Ruth. And even, maybe, for her t00-busy-for-his-child-or-father father. Most of all, though, it’s about her love for herself. I think everyone could use a bit of self-love, don’t you? (No, not “that’s what she said.”)
The tone, if you haven’t figured it out by now, isn’t exactly cheery. It has darker humor, it’s pretty melancholy (and the infinite sadness? anyone? bueller?) and it’s downright sad. (I said I sobbed by brains out, remember?) There are parts that will catch you by surprise and you’ll feel what Emily feels. She’ll be puke-stained and hung over and run into Andrew on a train platform for the first time since the break up. You’ll feel her mortification. When she’s in bed for days, you’ll feel her desperation and depression. When she mourns the loss of people close to her unexpectedly (no spoilers), you’ll feel that someone you knew and loved has passed.
That is how amazingly well-written this book is. So go read it. Immediately. Just do it.
SPOILER SPOILER : Okay, I know I said I don’t like spoilers, but I’m giving you fair warning on this one. I will spoil something that is a major plot point, but not the most major. I just feel that it is my duty to warn people about a plot point as I wish I had been warned. I will be vague but it won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who I’m referring to in this spoiler. (I don’t think, I could be a master vaguess. I don’t know what that means. You understand.) I’m warning one more time. SPOILER SPOILER! You’ve been warned.
Totally serious, not-attempting-to-be-funny at all paragraph coming up. Alzheimer’s runs in my family. My great-grandma had it, my grandma and when I read this book, my 48-year-old aunt had just been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a bitch of a disease and it was beyond awful to watch it take my family members’ minds and lives. One of the characters in TOOL (um, this is a little funny, I’ll admit) has Alzheimer’s. I was NOT ready for that story line and it made the book even more heart-wrenching for me, especially after learning about my way-too-young aunt. So, in knowing many other people affected by this terrible disease, I wanted to give a heads up. Because I know how hard it is to even see commercials for Aricept, let alone read a book where a lovable character is deteriorating. I still love this book, and I’m happy to have read it (multiple times), but there are times where I would not have read it. (Like when I brought it along after not reading it for a year…for the car ride to go say goodbye to my aunt this January…and on the way home got to the part with the character…I had to stop. I had forgotten, ironically, that detail. It is too much.)
END SPOILER. So back to the happy. Just do it. Go read this fabulous book.