Book Review: “The Light We Lost” by Jill Santopolo

The book I’m reviewing today is not new – it was first published in 2017. It has already received a lot of reader love, some of it the celebrity kind. Reese Witherspoon picked it up for her book club in February 2018 and gave it glowing reviews. Instead of reading, I actually heard the audio version of the book, which has moved me so much that I cannot stop myself from reviewing and recommending it to everyone I know. Before I begin, I must issue the boiler plate warning – this review does have some SPOILERS, though the story is linear and doesn’t have too many surprises so there isn’t much to reveal. But if you’re fussy like I am and don’t like to know anything about a book before reading or listening to it, I would ask you to stop right now. As for the rest of you, let’s begin.

I’m a sucker for love stories but I much prefer Regency romances (as I waxed eloquent in a previous post) over contemporary romances. I mean I really wouldn’t pick up a book with the name “Love in the time of Corona” even if Mr. Marquez himself rose from his grave and wrote it as a sequel to his brilliant novel “Love in the time of Cholera“. So, even though I knew that this book was set in the time period of the last two decades, I picked it up because the name of the book intrigued me. Some names have an ability to evoke a memory, pull out an emotion from within you and something similar happened to me when I read the words light and loss together. I thought this would be no fluffy, feel good love story – I felt that the book would have depth. I was right. 

If someone had to describe this book in a line, they might say – this is the story of a pair of star crossed lovers, Lucy and Gabe, who meet and part ways again and again over a period of 13 years. This trope – the protagonists meeting each other at different stages of their lives and then finding each other in the end – has been used to good effect in several books (One Day by David Nicholls) and movies (When Harry met Sally, Hum Tum). However, this book differs from that trope in one significant way – here the protagonists never really part from each other.  In fact, the way one of the character describes it they are like stars orbiting around each other, tethered by a bond that was created on a day when something extraordinary happened.

The story begins on 9/11 i.e. the day the twin towers in New York collapsed – it is the day Lucy and Gabe meet for the first time as students of Columbia University. Though their involvement with the incident is distant, limited to watching the towers collapse from the top of an academic building, yet it profoundly influences the personal and professional choices they make for the next 13 years of their lives. It is said that shared tragedy can create bonds deeper than those formed even after spending a lifetime together. Lucy and Gabe form such a connection that day, and even though their roads diverge later and Lucy falls in love with someone else and creates a happy family life with that person, she always feels that she never truly belongs to anyone like she belongs to Gabe. I could relate to that emotion on an elemental level. I’m sure a lot of you can too. 

I can go on and on about the parts of the book that touched me and how I was left in tears in the end, but I won’t do that. At the very crux, this is a book about choices and destiny, about dreams and passion – why we decide to travel on some roads and leave some others. The story is entirely narrated from Lucy’s point of view but with such vivid detail that you feel like you’re living those moments with her. I highly recommend the audio version of the book, which has been narrated by the author herself which makes it sound more like Lucy than anyone else’s voice would have sounded. I also recommend you keep some tissues next you – you’ll need them. I leave you with a passage that really spoke to me –

Love does that. It makes you feel infinite and invincible, like the whole world is open to you, anything is achievable, and each day will be filled with wonder. Maybe it’s the act of opening yourself up, letting someone else in—or maybe it’s the act of caring so deeply about another person that it expands your heart. I’ve heard so many people say some version of I never knew how much I could love another human being until . . . And after the until is usually something like my niece was born or I gave birth to a child or I adopted a baby. I never knew how much I could love another human being until I met you, Gabe. I’ll never forget that.

I hope you enjoy the book. I would love to know your views once you’ve read/heard it.


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(First published on on 25th September, 2020 and can be accessed here)

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