Second Chance Romances

Mt. Pleasant LibraryStaff Picks

Second Chance Romances

Another chance to consider love comes at almost the beginning of every year, after New Year's resolutions are set and as the days are stretching into something brighter as they pass. Valentine's Day is as good a reason as any to watch something romantic and full of possibility and questions. Some romances feel like an answer but some embrace uncertainty and give us the secondhand experience of happenstance and second chances. I've paired a few books with movies, and all of the listed items are in the DC Public Library catalog, so you are able to read and watch them all with just a library card, and can wonder at the role kismet and fate play in the character's (and our) lives.

One Day by David Nicholls & The Time Traveler's Wife
This pair focuses on the nuances of long term relationships over time. With David Nicholls' book, the reader follows Dex and Em as they face the same day, year after year. We see their relationship in snapshots and snippets each July 15 as they contend with squabbles, laughter and tears while coming to grips with the nature of life and love. The Time Traveler's Wife film is similarly concerned with longevity and the substance of life while following Clare and Henry (but with the added boost of some magical realism). Instead of getting a glimpse of them on the same date at annual intervals, we see them trying to stay together while not being able to exist at the same time as one another. In each of these, the frailty and strength of relationships is considered and revealed.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo & Sleepless in Seattle
The Light We Lost, a book by Jill Santopolo deals in fate and choices. The ones we make both irrationally and for preservation's sake. As their choices take them continents apart, Lucy and Gabe (who met as seniors at Columbia University) move through the book and the thirteen years it contains with all of the dreams, betrayals, jealousies and love they can spare. Ultimately, the ending of the book is a consideration of the question most people in love find themselves asking: was it fate that brought them together? Fate is also the essential question in Sleepless in Seattle, a well-soundtracked story of love involving distance and choices. In it, Annie and Sam are on opposite ends of the country but connected through Sam's radio interview which throws Annie a lifeline in the form of emotional connection and puts her recent engagement in stark light. Connection to someone we can't see and the idea of a force we can't control keep the heartbeat of this film steadily moving toward its iconic ending and reinforce that some things you just have to trust.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett & The Lake House
Three stories, all focused on the consequences of something seemingly innocuous weave us into the lives of Eva and Jim in The Versions of Us by author Laura Barnett. As readers, we twist and turn in accordance with the directions their lives do or don’t take, depending on which version of the story Barnett happens to be telling at the moment. The risk of their missing a beat or making an incongruous choice leads to potential discord and we as readers try to watch their steps very carefully. In much the same way, The Lake House, starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, risks the happiness of its characters on the precariousness of choice – this time as a result of them live in the same house, years apart (only able to communicate by leaving messages in their “shared” mailbox). They intersect in minor ways but it is the ending that pushes the limits of fate and what we can control. Both the book and the movie explore the nature of consequence in a really interesting way, making us wonder which version of reality we accept for ourselves.

The One that Got Away by Bethany Chase & When Harry Met Sally
Chase’s The One that Got Away has a sunshine that borders the substance of the story, giving it a summery feeling perfect for readers wanting something with as much humor as it has heart. It’s as re-readable as the classic movie When Harry Met Sally, which seemed to make them perfectly complementing for one another. In The One that Got Away, architect Serena Mahler must contend with feelings for an old love who arrives while her almost-fiancé is out of town and seeks her assistance as a client. As the book concludes, a stark realization will make her realize what she really values. Similarly, in When Harry Met Sally, loves are formed and reformed over time and one final push is needed to make one of the characters realize what they really want. Readers will find both of these titles swoonworthy and funny.

Miss You by Kate Eberlen & Before Sunset
Vacation has a way of putting us in situations we wouldn’t have expected. It’s what happens to Tess and Gus when they are 18, on holiday with their families in Florence. In Eberlen’s novel, they stumble onto one another like something fated before returning to England. Over the course of 16 years, the two live very different lives, each full of ways in which they’re tested by circumstance. The question of the book hinges on the simple premise – with so much to separate them, will they ever find a way back to one another? Similarly, Jesse and Celine – the two leads of Before Sunset – have met on vacation (in an earlier film, Before Sunrise) and are answering that very question, posed in their first installment: will they ever meet again. This film is part of a trilogy and this piece of the puzzle feels the most urgent because it finds them on the cusp of becoming who they’ll be for in their adulthood. Neither of them are content and they have to figure out if what they felt all those years ago is the reason why. The film’s trajectory brings them to an answer but with the different turns their lives have taken, watching it is the only way to know what they decide.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid & Sliding Doors
Finally, Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid folds possibilities into alternating chapters (and alternating truths) as the reader sees two scenarios unfold – stunning in their difference. As in the film Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, so many possibilities come from one simple action; although in Reid’s story, instead of the action being whether or not one makes a train, it comes down to a choice upon bumping into an old romantic partner. Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most interestingly:  Is there such a thing as a soul mate? Sliding Doors handles these same questions, transferring them to a visual medium. Both are equally compelling and, in my opinion, worth your time – especially with Valentine’s Day just around the corner.