Andy and Rachel fall in love and fall apart, over and over, in this emotional outing from Weiner (All Fall Down, 2014, etc.).
Eight-year-old Rachel Blum and Andy Landis meet in a hospital ER—she’s there because of a congenital heart deformity while he’s suffering from a broken arm caused by lack of parental supervision, having fallen off a balcony while doing circus tricks on the railing. They tell each other about the challenges in their young lives—for Rachel, it’s that her surgery makes everyone think she’s fragile, and for Andy, it’s being biracial, which makes him feel like he doesn’t fit in with white or black kids. When they meet again as teenagers, they almost instantly fall in love. But their relationship isn’t without its obstacles—while Rachel is a Jewish upper-middle-class girl, Andy lives in poverty with his single mother. Andy and Rachel break off and rekindle their romance multiple times as he sets his sights on becoming an Olympic runner and she finds her way in her own career in social work. Through marriages, deaths, scandals, and successes, they keep finding their ways back to each other. Does their connection mean they’re meant to be together—or are their differences simply too big to overcome? It’s hard not to get invested in Weiner’s characters, particularly Andy, who struggles to deal with his father's absence, his biracial identity, and feelings of being left out of Rachel’s privileged world. Although some side characters are painted with broad strokes, Andy and Rachel feel fully realized and easy to root for, even when they’re behaving badly and making mistakes. There are plenty of twists and turns (both predictable and surprising) in their relationship, and it’s satisfying to watch them wend their ways toward the novel’s perfectly realized conclusion.
This moving story of love that spans a lifetime is Weiner at her heartstring-tugging best.