We’ve all read those lovely head-over-heels stories of people who fall in love with the assumption at the end of the story that they live happily ever after…like some kind of fairy tale. Real life is just a bit different. That’s what drew me to The Two of Us by Andy Jones, because he’s not just looking at the giddy “I’ve lost my mind” stage of falling in love but what happens afterward – what it takes to stay in love. Relationships take work, not necessarily hard work but work nonetheless. Most romantic fiction seems to ignore that reality like the plague, which can tend to make us real-live humans feel like failures if the fairy tale part of being in love isn’t a 24/7, 365 day/year, forever phenomenon. How cool is it that someone is finally looking at that in a way that’s also entertaining as well as touching?!
When Will Fisher and Ivy Lee meet, it really is like one of those fireworks moments. They both know immediately that they were meant to be together. Now I should make it clear that these aren’t naïve people who’ve never been in a relationship. Nope, they’ve been there, done that, and gone through the beer/ice cream/chocolate phase of getting over the heartbreak of that. They are not new to the falling in love and falling out of love perils of relationships. But, there is something profoundly different this time. They both know instinctively that this person is the one they’ve been waiting for their whole lives without even realizing it. How lucky can you get?
In no time, they are completely spellbound with each other to the exclusion of everything else. The world could literally explode around them and it wouldn’t even register. Yep, they’ve got it bad…or good, depending on your perspective. Life could not be more wonderful…until one day Will begins to notice that something has shifted. Ivy doesn’t seem to still be as intensely focused on him as he is on her. What can it mean? Is she pulling away from him? Doesn’t she love him anymore? Is she going to break up with him? Panic sets in – OMG – was he wrong about how right they are for each other? Has he screwed it all up somehow without even knowing it?
And thus begins a 12-month journey of Will and Ivy trying to figure out what their relationship really means, and how they want it to be. Should they continue to be involved romantically? Should they share their lives together? Should they take “time off” to gain some perspective? Does one of them care more than the other one? If so, why? If not, why does it feel that way? As they analyze every detail of how each of them behaves, the things they say and don’t say to each other, and the way they believe it all “should” be, we get a lot of insight into just how clueless we all are about relationships with other human beings. And for those of us who are women, we get a lot of insight into how relationships look from a male point of view…which is eye-opening.
I liked both Will and Ivy as people. It’s easy to stand back as a fly on the wall and judge how people “should” behave and/or treat each other in a relationship. I’m not going to say which character I had the most sympathy for because, to be honest, my sympathies changed during the course of the novel back and forth. I felt as much like a fish out of water as they did…which is a testament to Andy Jones’ writing.
I worry that this review is going to make it sound like The Two of Us is an angst-filled novel – it’s not. It has some angst-filled moments but by and large it flows beautifully and contains a lot of humor, both overt and covert. While I felt for both Will and Ivy, and found parts of The Two of Us very touching, I also laughed my butt off at some of the things they did and said. I suspect we can all see ourselves in them to some extent because we’ve all had our weird relationship anxieties at some point or another. To tell you how deeply I got sucked into this novel, I read it in 1 day. I couldn’t stop. Every time I thought I’d put it down, I couldn’t resist finding out what was going to happen next. Will you like it as much as I did? I can’t say. It’s not the kind of novel I normally read, and I’m glad I did.
Excerpts from a Q&A with the Author:
Q: Your two main characters, [Will] Fisher and Ivy, are both very real – they have flaws, they are not perfect. Are they based on people you know – or wish you knew?!
A: Ahh … er … “All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” But in truth, Ivy is an entirely fictitious creation. Fisher, on the other hand, he does have shades of me in him. Particularly when he’s being an idiot. Actually, there is a scene when Fisher is reminiscing about a particular childhood event, a kind of interrogation at the hands of his primary school teacher. That happened to me – exactly as told.
Q: There are several big twists in The Two of Us. Did you know where the story was going when you started writing or did you see where the writing took you?
A: I had it very tightly plotted before I sat down to write page 1, so I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen and when. Nevertheless, one or two smaller twists did suggest themselves during the writing. For example: I don’t know if it’s a twist exactly, but that business with the Viagra at the wedding – that took me completely by surprise.
Q: The Two of Us is both very funny and very sad. Is this something you deliberately set out to do or did one of the two catch you by surprise?
A: Not at all. I had absolutely no tonal intent. I certainly didn’t set out to write a tear-jerker – I mean, if I had, I wouldn’t have known where to start. Instead, I started with my characters, created their backstory, decided where they were weak and strong and afraid – and then set out to put them in situations that brought those characteristics forward. But as I was working on the outline, a tragic event suggested itself. And for a while I resisted it; it felt so raw and … just bloody awful that I shrank away from it. But then I realized that reaction in myself was a powerful thing, that it would make a powerful story. I had no idea how the hell I was going to get it on the page in an honest and non-sensational manner, but I knew it was worth the effort. As for the funny stuff, well again, I didn’t try to do that or think Right, time for a comic scene. I’m naturally a joker – whether it’s funny or not is up for debate, but I do seem to have a natural urge to at least try and make people laugh. And when I’m writing, that just comes through. But it’s not always appropriate, you know, sometimes I have to make an effort to reel it in. So quite the opposite to anything deliberate.
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I’d love to get your comments on The Two of Us, Andy Jones and/or his other work, and/or this review!