I Couldn't Love You More
Which child would you save? A decision no parent can even fathom.
Eliot Gordon would do anything for her family. A 38-year-old working mother, she lives an ordinary but fulfilling life in suburban Atlanta with her partner, Grant Delaney, and their three daughters. The two older girls are actually Eliot's stepdaughters, a distinction she is reluctant to make as she valiantly attempts to maintain a safe, happy household . . .
Then Finn Montgomery, Eliot's long-lost first love, appears, triggering a shocking chain of events that culminates in a split-second decision that will haunt her beloved family forever. How Eliot survives-and what she loses in the process-is a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever loved a child. With hilarious honesty, wrenching depth, and a knockout twist, I COULDN'T LOVE YOU MORE illuminates the unbreakable bonds of family and reveals the lengths we'll go to save each other, even as we can't save ourselves.
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Reviewed by Maria Ryan for www.AuthorExposure.com
Eliot, the overextended mom/stepmom to three children and partner to Grant, lives the life of a good girl, trying too hard to be all things to all people. Eliot, the eldest of three girls, is almost too close to her sisters who are all radically different in temperament. Her own mother, an eighty something, once successful writer, tries to support Eliot as best she can though Eliot has unresolved issues with both her parents. Eliot is raising two children who aren’t her own and dealing with her partner’s ex-wife’s absentee style of parenting while also still supporting her financially.
It’s a lot to deal with when suddenly after years of no contact, a significant ex-boyfriend reappears and Eliot must face up to the lack of closure in their relationship. As Eliot falls deeper into the trap of reattachment to someone better left in the past, she starts behaving in ways unrecognizable to herself and those closest to her. One specific moment in time forces Eliot to make a physical choice between two of her children and the fallout that ensues forces her to reexamine her entire life and the decisions she has been making up to this point.
Eliot is someone used to letting others walk over her. Starting with her parents, to a college boyfriend who was clearly undeserving of her affection, to her overbearing and overly dramatic sister, Sylvia, to her bratty and wildly inappropriate stepchild, Charlotte, Eliot plays the victim over and over again. When Finn reappears, she instantaneously falls back into a pining and pathetic college co-ed in spite of the fact that she is now a mother with monumental responsibilities. A very unfortunate choice made in a split second of tacky selfishness yields consequences that no mother should have to endure. The problem though was that by the end of the book, I was not convinced that Eliot learned her lessons. This realization was an unfortunate one since the characters in the book are far more multifaceted than they appear initially. They are one by one revealed in their depth as they ping-pong back and forth from their best to worse selves. Sylvia for example, paints an interesting picture as a self-indulgent, spoiled, drama queen who has us rethinking our initial impressions when she not only attempts a very heroic act but follows it up with a major act of selflessness. She then later mars the whole act by telling it to her mother and sister, most probably because she cannot handle not being the center of attention.
Though this story does follow a clear structural path, it is difficult to understand the ultimate point of the story. Some of the nuts and bolts of the story don’t make much sense such as Eliot’s mother’s reaction when she realizes that her mother knows who was really on the beach with Hailey and Gail. Simone’s trying not to laugh at something so serious had me going back to read the passage over to make sure there wasn’t something missed. Why was she laughing?
The male characters show a decided lack of character with the possible exception of Roger who is too peripheral a character to really know for sure. Finn is a child in a man’s body who is well aware of his power of manipulation over Eliot and chooses to exploit it even after they both have families of their own. Grant’s refusal to stand up for Eliot in the face of his ex-wife and eldest daughter is despicable. It is easy to surmise the reasons for Eliot and his not being married in spite of their family.
Lastly, after the emotionally draining climax, there seems to be a dropping off point with the resolution between Eliot and Finn lacking in a real finale. Yes, we see finally for the last time that Finn remains true to form in the face of Eliot’s very real crisis. There remains no question that he is not worth a speck of her time but again, I failed to receive the message that Eliot really got this, once and for all.
I COULDN'T LOVE YOU MORE (May 2012) is a deftly nuanced novel that in the end could have used a bit more