The Light We Lost: A Review

The Light We Lost

Jill Santopolo

Rating: 2.5 stars

I had rather high hopes for this book. I’d seen it recommended by multiple people and book clubs, so I decided to give it a try. I even really liked it after the first couple chapters. And then…well I just didn’t. I finished it. It wasn’t so terrible that I didn’t finish it, and there were a few books like that in 2018. But after the first couple chapters, after the two main characters Gabe and Lucy were no longer together and we were left with Lucy’s whiny, unappreciative behavior and perspective on, well, everything, I found myself more and more annoyed with her and the story. 

A brief synopsis of the story: Gabe and Lucy meet on what would become a rather fateful day, September 11, 2001. On the one hand, I understand why meeting on that day seared themselves into each other’s memory. I certainly remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with when I found out about the planes hitting the Twin Towers. But Lucy’s rather frequent references to 9/11 and the importance of the day on her feelings toward Gabe bordered on inappropriate. They try to hook up on 9/11 but are thwarted. Then a year later, they find each other again and date for a year and a half. Gabe wants to do something with meaning and photograph the world to open people’s minds. Lucy is focused on her job for a youth television show. When Gabe is offered a job with Associated Press to photograph in the Middle East (the fact that he had no trouble finding such a prestigious job is annoying in and of itself), he insists he needs to go, Lucy is despondent but insists she can’t go with him, and they break up. Lucy then goes on a pity party bender, convinced that Gabe is the only man that will ever fully understand her and she will love with that degree of intensity. When she meets Darren, a man entirely infatuated with her, she still can’t get Gabe out of her head. Darren’s biggest flaw is that he likes to surprise Lucy with grand gestures (how dare he?!), gestures she’s certain Gabe wouldn’t have sprung on her. Darren and Lucy get married, but her attitude doesn’t much change.

In the end, the book is just one large whiney-fest from Lucy. She doesn’t come off as particularly sympathetic because she continues a relationship with Darren, marries him, has his children, even though she still pines for Gabe. Gabe seems like a flat pretty boy that would’ve caused adolescents to drool and squeal with glee. Despite his determination to do something that matters, he comes off entirely selfish, vain, and superficial. Darren is ok. He is a far-too-typical husband in that he expects Lucy too often to sacrifice her career for their family, and he prefers to spring big surprises on her than talk through decisions with her. Really, the book suffers from characters that are achingly unsympathetic and flat. Framing the entire narrative around a love story that began because of 9/11 just rounds out the subtle icky feeling. 

It isn’t a total flop because it does show some insights into humanity. The realities of marriage and roles in marriage are highlighted occasionally. The feeling of love lost is a rather powerful emotion and it’s a great starting point. Perhaps if Lucy hadn’t become so whiny the whole book, it would have taken on an entirely different tone. The writing itself felt accessible and fresh. It could’ve been something absolutely beautiful, but lost its way somewhere along the journey.

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