Title: The Love that Split the World
Author: Emily Henry
Goodreads Synopsis: Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.
Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife is the perfect description of this book. There is a stark contrast between those two references, but The Love That Split the World marries the Contemporary with Fantasy and Sci-Fi, creating a cohesive and complementary world within it’s pages. I can safely say that I have never read a book like this one before, and I found the different genres within to mesh together perfectly.
Right off the bat, we are introduced to a minor but very crucial character, Grandmother. Grandmother has been appearing to Natalie since she was a child, and has suddenly decided to reappear after a three year hiatus to deliver an important message. “Three months to save him.” As any of us would be, Natalie is confused and unsettled. Who is him? And who is Grandmother? Is she a religious messenger? A Native American apparition? Or simply a figment of Natalie’s imagination? One thing is clear, time is running out and Natalie has to race to beat the clock.
Adopted at a very young age into a middle-class white family, Natalie has struggled with her identity all her life. As a child, she tried to fit in with the people around her so that they wouldn’t think she was different. But as a blossoming young adult, she has become tired of this charade and is looking to discover her Native American heritage. This leads to the alienation of some of her closest relationships and changes the dynamic within the social space she has occupied for so long. Throughout the novel, Natalie struggles to answer the question; Who am I? Her mental state plays a very large part in this book, as she tries to figure out whether her experiences are supernatural or psychological.
Natalie Cleary is a particularly wise, and likable protagonist; she is quick to point out slut-shaming and refuses to see her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend as anything but human. Natalie is a feminist, and she refuses to give in to social pressures and constraints that compromise her sense of self. Her relationships with each of the characters featured are meaningful and play an important part in her journey to discover who she is, and who she needs to save.
This book is centered around a romance between Natalie and Beau, and relies on your attachment to that romance in order to effectively tell the story. I found Natalie and Beau’s relationship to be a little too insta-lovey for my taste. There wasn’t any build up of their relationship, just feelings plucked out of midair and proclaimed as love. Their romance was entirely built on good looks, and we are constantly reminded of those good looks throughout the novel.
“His biceps are roughly the size of my head, and his eyes look like summer incarnate, and he has two little dark freckles on the side of his nose, and a mouth that somehow manages to look like a shy kid’s one minute and a virile Greek god’s the next.”
Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ. I’m not sure what I prefer, being constantly reminded how beautiful a character is, or being constantly reminded how ordinary a character is. I have to admit, that description does paint a pretty picture. Emily Henry has an extraordinary way with imagery, using words to perfectly conjure a character, action, or place in the reader’s mind. Criticisms aside, I did believe and become invested in their romance. Despite its beginnings, it felt genuine and relevant.
The Love That Split the World is a novel that features diversity, feminism, positivism, and the contrast between the supernatural and psychological. I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but I liked that it was open-ended, and at the same time not unclear. This is one of those books where you don’t get a concrete, “tied up all the loose ends” ending, but it’s done beautifully, successfully, and it satisfies the reader. Nothing in this book is cut and dry, everything is open to interpretation, and the ending captures that perfectly.