I Couldn’t Love You More by Jillian Medoff
Published by: five spot
Published on: May 15, 2012
Page Count: 399
Genre: Women’s Fiction
My Reading Format: Review copy sent to me by the publisher for consideration.
Available Formats: Paperback and eBook
Coming Soon: I will be interviewing Jillian Medoff next week. I hope you’ll come back and get to know the author a little better.
We read to know we are not alone. ~ C.S. Lewis
Eliot Gordon has a full if unconventional life. She lives with her partner Grant, his two daughters by his first marriage and their daughter Hailey. Although the two aren’t married, they are in love and have created a home for the entire family. Despite standard issues with being a stepmother, life is good. Then, Eliot’s younger sister, Sylvia, tells her that Finn, her college sweetheart, is back in Atlanta. Eliot has unresolved issues with Finn and the way in which he left her life. Seeing Finn again is exhilarating at first, but soon begins to spin out of control. Eliot needs to decide what she really wants in this life. Unfortunately, it may be too late.
I opened my review of I Couldn’t Love You More with a quote from C.S. Lewis because it kept popping into my head as I read the first half of this book. While there are certainly differences between Eliot and me, I could identify myself at her very essence. There were sections of the novel where I felt as if Jillian Medoff must certainly have found a way to steal the inner workings of my mind or, at the very least, stalked me while I was in college. I make those accusations in the most positive light. As I read Eliot’s story, I was right there with her. I had my pen out and was underlining passages like crazy. With each new section, I felt closer to Eliot. Especially as I read Chapters Ten and Eleven, I never set my pen down. This section about Eliot and Finn’s friendship before dating is absolutely perfect (emphasis mine):
But I savored these moments, holding them tight in my hand, each one a rare treasure to unlock later and study. He had to know I had a crush on him–how could he not? But I pretended I didn’t, and he pretended I didn’t, and all that pretending helped to sustain us. Everywhere we looked, boys and girls were becoming friends, sleeping together, then fighting and breaking up. But Finn and I endured, and it was because the deepest part of our relationship–the most gripping–was inside our silences, coded among the words left unsaid. Or maybe I just told myself this because I loved him and was desperate for him to love me back. (page 119)
Eliot wasn’t just like me before things went horribly wrong. We had the same thought patterns after, too:
Yes, I was insane. It’s insane, isn’t it, to love a ghost? To obsess about a man who treated you badly, then left you behind without so much as a backward glance? It’s insane to wait for him to reappear, even though you saw him vanish with your own two eyes. It’s insane to tell yourself that everything would be different if only, if only. The whole thing was insane, even the idea that he–that they–truly loved me in the first place.
And yet. (page137)
As the novel progresses and Eliot and Finn are reintroduced to each other, I follow Eliot through her confusing emotions. Although I’ve not experienced that myself and truly hope not to, I continued to see myself in Eliot’s guilt, anxiety, and utter giddiness. I can imagine finding a resolution to an incomplete relationship would feel so good that you would lose track of the lives you’re playing with. In your desire to see those “if onlys” realized, you forget the good that came into your life because that first relationship ended poorly.
I Couldn’t Love You More isn’t only about coming to terms with an unfinished relationship. It has much to say about sisters, surviving selfish parents, what it means to nurture and parent, letting go of the past, and forgiving those who have hurt you the most deeply. This novel has its poignant moments, but it is also full of humor. The opening birthday party, scenes with Grant’s first wife, and Sylvia’s self-serving hypochondria gave this novel the balance it needed to keep it from feeling heavy.
I drank in I Couldn’t Love You Morel from the beginning. I lingered over the passages like those above because it felt as though they were spoken to me directly. Then, when Eliot’s flirtation with Finn goes a little too far, this novel became impossible to put down. By the end, not only was I connected to Eliot, I was proud of her. I appreciated how she owned up to her mistakes and refused to let guilt destroy her life, whatever might be left of it. Eliot Gordon is a character after my own heart. I understood her and I know that because she existed within the pages of this book, someone understands me, too. In this book, Jillian Medoff made me fully aware that I love to read because in doing so I know I’m not alone. That is the power of the best women’s fiction.