Novel: Miss You by Kate Eberlen | Goodreads
Release Date: August 11, 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven’t met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .
Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can’t get it out of her head, even though she’s in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever – but not in the way she expects.
Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.
For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.
Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there’s no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there?
This book felt long because there’s a lot of life in it. Each story — Gus and Tessa — had triumphs and pitfalls that were full of a spectrum of emotion. Neither character was perfect, and they didn’t always make a properly moral choice, but they were each likable and well-meaning.
I’d expected the book to feel like a romance, but it didn’t. Sections of the narrative relate the characters or complement their features, but the protagonists lead wholly separate lives. The delicacy of their connection was smartly constructed.
Tessa’s life changes when her mother’s cancer comes back, ultimately terminal, and leaves her in charge of the care of her younger sister Hope. While they’ve always believed Hope just to be a little odd and spoiled, she’s later diagnosed with Aspergers. Tessa’s dreams of attending university are shattered, and while she busies herself with assisting at the primary school, she devours books at night. Her father is a self-pitying deadbeat who calls the shots; her brothers always cause a scene, deferring all responsibility to her.
I was astonished by how mature and refined that Tessa remained throughout her narrative, both at a young age and when her life was falling to bits. Her cycles through relationships, lessons, and philosophical musings were a delight. Truthfully, I felt connected to her because of her meditations and the precision of her questions about the universe.
Tessa grew and developed throughout the narrative (although that often involved reverting to a more immature version of herself that she never quite got.) You find yourself rooting for her, throughout all her misplaced blames and sufferings — and quite a lot of her joys as well. She was weary but also relatively optimistic about the longings in her life that she thought she might someday have.
Miss You felt honest and perceptive, with small details that enhanced underlying conflicts. It had a knack for capturing specific details about each character’s life, which was rapidly apparent in the language, as well as the un-sexy goings-on of regular life that don’t often make it into romantic fiction. (By this, I mean romantic in an overall sense not in terms of two people falling in love.) For example, Tessa’s raw fear each time she checked herself for cancerous lumps. Gus’s confusing relationship with his parents as he grew older.
Gus’s narrative was a little more morally ambiguous, showing less regard for others, but still capturing pressures and all. He was a voracious runner and cook, and the development of each of his hobbies over time was pleasurable to read.
Neither character was particularly happy at any point, although they both contained joyful moments. While I would have rather experienced a sense of positivity, that fit with who they were painted to be as characters. Not necessarily relatable, but simply because they had different personalities than myself.
The book covers a span of years without flashing forward too much. While you’d think this would drag the pacing down, each phase of life was equally important to Gus and Tessa (especially in regards to their character growth.) I always love books that find ways to make the tidbits of life — phone calls, recipes, doctors’ appointments, inconveniences — as flavorful and interesting as the bigger stuff.
The writing was well-balanced and so enjoyable. It’s a leisurely read, with little regard for pacing. It’s slow, but interesting in all the relevant ways. While it may not be the read for everyone — and was not for my older sister — I liked that it was a little sad towards the beginning. That the characters could be enormously stupid. That their paths didn’t often cross, but had sort of adjacent similarities that feel much like real life.
The ending was a little convenient. It didn’t feel like enough, after such a build-up. After seeing each character fall for multiple people and experiencing the flavor of their years together, I would have loved some more substance behind their connection. I rarely buy into fate. I buy into friendship, and conversation. Still, the coincidences behind their final bump into each other were likable, sweet, and fitting for the book. Although it’s marketed as a romance, it feels like a lot more of a coming-of-age, just for two people, and over a longer span of time.
I enjoyed the read. I would read it again. I heartily recommend it to those looking for a dose of life in their novels, although maybe not the picture-perfect romance they’re picturing in a “missed connection” read; therefore, I recognize that it’s not a book that’s for everyone. It’s meandering and nuanced, but can linger sometimes too much. It has a rhythm to it though, one that was ultimately compelling.