Well, one positive side effect of Covid-19 (or ‘the ‘rona’ as we call it in my house) is that I actually have the time to tackle some of my longer books – you know, the ones that you keep putting off reading because it feels like such a time commitment and time is definitely at a premium during the school year. And, really, what do we have right now besides loads of time?
Miss You is British writer Kate Eberlen’s debut novel and it tells the stories, in two first person narratives, of Tess and Gus. The novel opens in Florence; Tess is with her best friend, Doll, and Gus with his parents. They are both 18. They have a couple teensy encounters, but the sort of casual meetings you would have with a stranger. Their paths do not cross again for sixteen years. The story is really about what happens in those sixteen years.
Tess returns from her holiday excited to attend university in London. A family tragedy prevents this, and she has to ditch her plans to look after her fourteen-years-younger sister, Hope. Gus returns from his holiday and does, in fact, head off to university in London. He looks at the opportunity to escape the crushing weight of his parents’ expectations (they want him to be a doctor) and grief (Gus’s older brother, Ross, had died in a skiing accident at Christmas.)
Miss You is really a book about all the little things that can happen to you over the course of a lifetime (or part of a lifetime, at least.) We watch Tess and Gus morph from slightly awkward teens to adults in their twenties. They make mistakes in their personal lives and relationships that have consequences, and in that way they are incredibly relatable. I actually really liked both of them and spending time in their worlds was a true pleasure.
And that makes the next bit hard to say: I wasn’t a real fan of the ending. I mean, we know all along that Gus and Tess are meant to end up together – even though their initial meeting didn’t even allow them to exchange names or seem all that significant. Perhaps we are expected to buy into the notion that Gus and Tess weren’t ready for each other at eighteen. Fair enough. Their individual experiences over the next sixteen years shape them into stronger, more compassionate people, sure. My issue doesn’t really have anything to do with that. Nor does it have to do with the fact that it’s essentially fate that brings them back into each other’s orbit in, you guessed it, Italy. I think my problem was that from the moment they figure out who the other is, they’re both ALL IN. And, of course, if it’s fate, it’s fate. There’s no fighting it. And I have a romantic’s bleeding heart, trust me. It’s just, Eberlen took such care with their individual stories that their reunion should have been – I don’t know – something more than it was.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I love Italy, and time spent there was a delight. I loved these characters. They were human and impulsive and delightful. Probably everyone else on the planet would find their eventual union deserved and perfect. Not disagreeing. I just wish it had been allowed a little bit more breathing room.
Still, a perfect book to settle into.