In Who Do You Love, Jennifer Weiner follows one couple on a thirty-year-long journey to a hard-earned happy ending.
Rachel and Andy met in a Miami hospital when they were both eight years old. She was a local girl, comfortably coddled by her Jewish family, recovering from surgery for a congenital heart defect. He was a visitor from Philadelphia, a biracial only child being raised by his single mother, whose vacation was being interrupted by a trip to the emergency room with a broken arm. She gave him a stuffed bear, and after he got home, he wrote her a letter. They met again eight years later, in Atlanta, working on a service project. They were an on-and-off, long-distance couple until an ugly breakup during their junior year of college. After three years apart, 9/11 brought them back together, but the different trajectories of their lives—track star Andy was focused on the Olympics, while social worker Rachel was caught up in the daily struggles of her single-parent clients—were just one more reason for them to question whether they were meant to be each other’s lifelong loves, or just each other’s first love.
Romantics might call Rachel and Andy star-crossed lovers, but few of the detours and obstacles to their relationship feel manufactured by capricious fates; they’re the real, recognizable challenges of two people with very different life experiences trying to create a life experience they can share. Weiner’s development of both characters as distinct individuals who can deny neither their differences nor their enduring bond makes Who Do You Love an engaging, satisfying read for fans of women’s fiction.
Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are just eight years old when they meet one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she’s intrigued by the boy who shows up alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to a doctor and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again.
Rachel grows up in an affluent Florida suburb, the popular and protected daughter of two doting parents. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent for running.
Yet, over the next three decades, Andy and Rachel will meet again and again—linked by chance, history, and the memory of the first time they met, a night that changed the course of both of their lives.
“I don’t answer. I shut my eyes and hold my breath and hope whoever it is will think I’m not here and just go home.
“Knock knock knock, and then my name again. ‘Rachel, are you in there?’
“I twist myself more deeply into the sheets. The sheets are fancy linen, part of the wedding haul, and they’ve gotten silkier with every trip through the washing machine. I pull the pillow over my head, noting that the pillowcase has acquired a not-so-fresh smell. This is probably related to my not having showered for the last three days. I have left the bed only to use the toilet and scoop and handful of water from the bathroom sink into my mouth. On the table next to my bed is a sleeve of Thin Mint cookies that I retrieved from the freezer, and a bag of Milanos for when I finish the Thin Mints. It’s spring, and sunny and mild, but I’ve pulled my windows shut. drawing my shades so I can’t see the mom brigade ostentatiously wheeling their oversized strollers down the street, and the forty-year-old guys with expensive suede sneakers and facial hair as carefully tended as bonsai tweeting while they walk, or the tourists snapping selfies at the snout-to-tail restaurants where everything’s organic and locally sourced. The bedroom is dark, the doors are locked; my daughters are elsewhere. Lying on these soft sheets that smell of our commingled sweat, hair and skin and the sex we had two weeks ago, it’s almost like not being alive at all.”