Saturday, December 3, 2016

Book review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

"And oh there are days in this life, worth life and worth death." -Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (quoted at the beginning of the book)

Travel is often a test of patience. We need to get from where we are to where we want to go but we have to deal with the hassle of car or plane rides that can last hours long. Planes are convenient, but we have to admit, most of us are scared of them. I still have a little anxiety when I step in a plane. You're just in a small capsule of metal flying through the sky, and even with all the high-tech aerodynamics since the Wright brothers invented the airplane, you still harbor the small fear that you will all crash down anytime. Especially during turbulence where most of us (like me) already utter prayers and imagine the worst case scenarios. I get real scared when the plane is shaking and all you can see through the windows is the white of the clouds, because sunlight and the clear view below offers comfort and zero visibility is quite disturbing.

 But all that doesn't have to do with the book, but that's what our main character Hadley Sullivan feels that she has to travel from America to London. Not for a vacation, but for her father's wedding - to his new wife! Her dad had been teaching in the UK for a year, met a new woman, and a sad divorce ensues between her parents. We can imagine how bitter she must feel towards her dad and how sorry she is for herself and her mother, but she is invited to the wedding and her plane ticket was already booked, so she has no choice.

She misses her flight, just four minutes late. In the hours of waiting for the next plane, she unexpectedly meets Oliver, a boy also heading to London for his own tragic family affair. During the wait and the 7-hour plane ride, they talk, get to know each other, and (horror of horrors) fall in love?

Hadley is claustrophobic (as she claims, airports are torture chambers when you have a fear of enclosed spaces), and Oliver distracts her from her fear, especially they are inside a plane. Oliver is full of amusing trivia and statistical facts, and in an unlikely place they find comfort in each other. They share a sudden kiss in the middle of the busy airport with people coming and going around them, just before they go their separate ways.

After some interventions of fate, they meet in London again, but here is where the challenges start. Hadley looked for Oliver, but she realizes that she is just a girl he met at the airport after all, and she doesn't know much more about his life other than what they talked about during the flight. Hadley meets people in Oliver's life that made her question her position in his. Are they on the brink of the beginning of something, or was the airport meeting and whatever they felt at that time only lasted until they both had to go their own ways?

This is not only about a love story but also about family. Both Hadley and Oliver both have issues with their fathers, with Hadley dealing with the wedding of his father to a new woman and helping her mother move on, and Oliver heading to the funeral of his father who left a family mess concerning his adulterous affairs when he was still living. In the end, they both find closure with their fathers.

While most of us would think that a belief in fate and destiny is cynical, but we can suspend disbelief for a moment in reading fiction. There are moments in our own lives, too, that we didn't intend to happen but just happened by pure chance. If Hadley wasn't late in her flight, she wouldn't have met Oliver. Another series of coincidences in London made them cross paths again, and this time for real. We get a happy ending fitting for the title and the cover of the book! (Sorry, spoiler!)

I bought this book because I usually read about violence ('school shooters & serial killers' genre) and my friends in school told me to read romance for a change so yeah, this is quite uncharacteristic of me. But this book is a great, light read if you want to just relax into a feel-good romance story.

Quotes:
"Love is the strangest, most illogical thing in the world."

“Is it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never to have had it?” -Hadley

“It's one thing to run away when someone's chasing you. It's entirely another to be running all alone.” -Hadley

“He’s like a song she can’t get out of her head. Hard as she tries, the melody of their meeting runs through her mind on an endless loop, each time as surprisingly sweet as the last, like a lullaby, like a hymn, and she doesn’t think she could ever get tired of hearing it.”

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