Novel: One Day in December by Josie Silver | Goodreads
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Publisher: Broadway Books
A Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick
“Get ready to be swept up in a whirlwind romance. It absolutely charmed me.” —Reese Witherspoon
“Josie Silver writes with a warmth so palpable her characters sneak their way into your heart and stay for a long time.”—Jill Santopolo, New York Times-bestselling author of The Light We Lost
Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.
Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.
Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.
What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.
Although I’m not a love-at-first-sight human, and I tend to hate its occurrence in my book choices, I somehow thought that One Day in December would be different. My review’s likely going to sound as if I hated it — which I didn’t — but I did have a lot of criticisms. I actually thought it was a rather pleasant read, and I’ll likely recommend it to those looking for a surface-level way to spend a few hours with a festive book.
First of all, I should talk about the structure of the book. One Day in December takes place over a few years, with each chapter conveying an important moment, or turning point, in Jack and Laurie’s relationship. Although I can see why Silver chose to do it that way, it felt a little scattered. Huge gaps of time, and then short bursts.
Additionally, she tended to go by topic, instead of pacing out different subplots over the course of the book. You’d get a couple chapters about an accident, and then another few chapters about her dad, and then another few chapters about a particular relationship. Because of the strange lapses in time, the heavy focus on one topic felt a little unrealistic. I doubt Laurie would have happened to be dissecting this exact moment months later, and just conveniently have an update for the reader.
Because of the gaps in time, and the topic-oriented organization, the pacing was pretty bad. Things unfolded in one burst rather than over time, and it was hard to keep my head in the book.
All in all, I think my problem with One Day in December was just that the writing felt weak. Every choice that Silver made felt convenient, but not realistic. For the record, I enjoy fairytale romances and holiday romances and whirlwinds — ones that aren’t too close to reality, but a nice form of escapism. But I could never quite root for our starring couple because whatever reality in which they operated just felt so, so far removed from the reactions that normal people had to certain scenarios.
Every wrench and every conflict thrown in their path was too obvious, and some subtlety would have been appreciated; additionally, with the exception of searingly obvious tropes, not much seemed to happen. For example, the phone rang with an accident involving one of the characters twice, and the cutoff of the chapter was meant to be suspenseful but we’d already seen the device used before. They didn’t really have that many issues, and so the middle of the book dragged.
Basically, the plot revolves around Laurie and Jack catching a glimpse of each other on their commute and feeling suddenly, grippingly in love. Jack attempts to board the bus but misses it, and both reflect for months, and years on that mysterious, alluring stranger. The concept of a fantasy person isn’t particularly unrealistic; neither is the hope that they might magically solve all your problems if they might only fall in love with you. But the language surrounding it, the bizarre certainty Laurie and Jack had about each other, ultimately fell flat, particularly because it’s supposed to take place over years. I’m somewhat disappointed in the potential of it all.
Once the two actually meet and engage with each other, they don’t really seem to notice that much about each other. Jack mentions once that Laurie makes everyone feel special, and talks about her dark hair and kindness. Laurie mentions Jack as being witty and ambitious, but largely just refers to him as the boy on the bus. While they’re clearly attracted to each other, and ultimately end up having history because of their proximity and friendship, the descriptions don’t add enough to the passion or the conviction that they have about ending up together. Their relationship is vague: “pure magic,” “supposed to be together,” etc,. but not much explanation as to why. Laurie also dates a man named Oscar and I actually rooted for them the whole time.
Laurie, as a character, was likable enough. Her confusion and wavering was genuine, and so her reactions weren’t quite as off-putting as that of other characters. Because we’re often in her head, we do get quite a lot of info-dumping. She’s telling us the story the whole time without actually living it.
Jack, honestly, wasn’t that nice or good to other people. He was so wrapped up in his own desires and pity party that there wasn’t that much of a reason to root for him — or for them to get together.
Both of them were complicated enough as people, experiencing a wide variety of emotions over the years during which this book takes place. But their relationship was too flat.
A line that I read in a review says that One Day in December reads like a thriller because of secrets and “heart-aching betrayals.” But really, it’s just a missed-communication trope that seems carried too far, and without the writing finesse to back it up. I suppose I’m just frustrated because it had the potential to be SO good, but Silver always took the easy way out. Having characters actually work through something would have been much more difficult as an author but so much more satisfying as a reader.
In any case, I don’t really buy into the praise, or why this one is getting so popular. It’s cute, but there are much cuter books with better pacing, plotting, and writing. It was too convenient, and its “twists” were too familiar. I enjoyed the festivity and still found the read endearing, but I don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been. Anyone who knows me would characterize me as a romantic, as someone who gets swept up in daydreams. But even I’m too practical for this one.
However, although I’ve just spent a thousand words ragging on it, I can still see a good amount of people enjoying it. If you want to kill a few hours and get yourself ready for Christmas, or just want to see two people fighting to be together, it fills a niche that might satisfy what you want from the holidays.
If you’re like I am and see yourself not enjoying this one, check out Miss You by Kate Eberlen for a similar, slow-build romance about missed connections and two people drifting towards each other over the years.