“I didn’t know anyone could see it,” Samuel said. “You know, Lee, I think of my life as a kind of music, not always good music but still having form and melody. And my life has not been a full orchestra for a long time now. A single note only – and that note unchanging sorrow. I’m not alone in my attitude, Lee. It seems to me that too many of us conceive of a life as ending in defeat.”
– John Steinbeck, East of Eden (1952, Chapter 24)
“And the geography of the thing–the geography of them–was completely and hopelessly wrong.”
– Jennifer E. Smith, The Geography of You and Me (2014)
I love rereading books that have captured my heart the first time. As a romantic, I’m a sucker for teen romance, specifically novels that also have a deeper meaning besides the love story. This time, Jennifer E. Smith’s The Geography of You and Me is a book that I want to share.
Interestingly, I discovered this piece back in 2014 while trying to borrow Steve Kluger’s lovely book again at the library. I was smitten not by the cover, but by the synopsis, which is as follows
Lucy lives on the twenty-fourth floor. Owen lives in the basement. It’s fitting, then, that they meet in the middle — stuck between two floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, Lucy and Owen spend the night wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is back, so is reality. Lucy soon moves abroad with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.
The brief time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and to San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland, Lucy and Owen stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails and phone calls. But can they — despite the odds — find a way to reunite?
Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. Sometimes, it can be a person.
Like most, Lucy and Owen’s story began somewhere. For them, it was in an elevator during a blackout in New York City. Unlike many, theirs travels thousands of miles across Europe and the United States; Lucy and Owen’s lives quickly diverge after their initial meeting. They manage to keep in contact despite leading very different lives because both provide something that the other is searching for. For Lucy, it’s a desire for change from her lonely lifestyle, while Owen seeks something more permanent, like a home.
However, time and distance eventually takes a toll on the two. While the words aren’t explicit, here, Smith expects her readers to read between the lines, seeing what isn’t being said, as the lines literally become shorter. Lucy and Owen’s exchanges become shorter and shorter, a reflection of how their physical separation has affected them.
Throughout their interactions, there’s an understanding that the two love each other. However, it isn’t so explicit to the point that you know how it’ll end. On one hand, you keep rooting for Lucy and Owen’s happy ending together, but there’s also a sense that this may not happen immediately, if ever. One thing that we know for certain is that the two have feelings for one another.
I know that many don’t believe in it, but I’d like to believe that fate exists. The best love stories contemplate fate by showing character growth and/or sharing the ill-fated tale of star-crossed lovers, not just a transparent love triangle. There’s something so romantic about the latter because the promise of a happy ending in the next life that couldn’t be achieved in this life just tugs at your heartstrings. If it’s meant to be, then it’ll eventually be realized, and if not, then it may happen at the next one.
Luckily for them, Lucy and Owen’s story isn’t a tragic one. Their eventual reunion highlights a popular and romantic theme – love will prevail. Though they’re quite young, the two manage to get over the long distance “curse”. They realize that while their physical bodies may be in two separate locations, that doesn’t mean much when their hearts are both in the same place – in the elevator during a blackout in New York City.
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I love you the more in that I believe you had liked me for my own sake and for nothing else.
– John Keats, English Romantic Poet; one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets (1795-1821)
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
– Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher, writer; author of the Tao Te Ching, founder of philosophical Taoism, deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions (604 BCE-531 BCE)
It would have been so pointless to kill himself that, even if he had wanted to, the pointlessness would have made him unable.
– Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925)
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
– Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, commonly referred to as Leo Tolstoy, Russian writer (1828-1910)
Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.
– Albert Camus, French philosopher, author, and journalist (1913-1960)
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Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life.
– Ray Bradbury, American author and screenwriter (1920-2012)
Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend.
– Elizabeth Gilbert, American author, essayist, short story writer, biographer, novelist, memoirist (1969-present)