Published by St. Martin's Press on August 22, 2017
Source: the publisher
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A smart, funny, and modern retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, where a young woman comes face-to-face with a lost love, proving that the one that got away is sometimes the one you get back.
Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.
Ten years later, Ruby's single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about seeing Ethan there for the first time in years.
But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago? Because there's nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past . . .
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I love that The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel is pitched as a Persuasion retelling, because I think that’s one of the most fun things about this story. I think it’s a loose retelling, but the nod to Jane Austen is most definitely in there. This story is basically two people from a past relationship that are reunited after several years – under somewhat strained circumstances – and there are still feelings there, at least on one side. To me, the fun in reading this was wondering 1) what happened to break Ruby and Ethan up in the first place and 2) would they be able to put their differences aside and resume their relationship from here forward.
This story is told in alternating time perspectives: a “Then” and a “Now.” I like this because it gives multiple layers of insight into both Ruby and Ethan as characters, but it also serves to create a slow, rising tension. I was able to get to know the “Then” versions of Ruby and Ethan from about ten years ago, when they were younger people in that frantic type of love that accompanies life during the time when many of us are leaving home and making our way out into the world. Ruby is excited about this part of her life and plans on a big move to New York City. She knows that she wants something more than the small town where she and Ethan live, but Ethan isn’t convinced that is the life for him. Ethan comes from a family that is less socially “loud” than Ruby’s, and he is happy where he lives. Ethan’s family has less money and they are content with the choices they’ve made, even though those choices are much less glamorous than the ones that Ruby’s family has made. When the inevitable happens and Ruby moves to New York, the distance strains their relationship, and something goes horribly wrong.
By the time I figured out what happened to the two, I was already fully committed to their status as a couple, and I was devastated. My heart broke along with theirs. I wondered if they could ever survive something like that – which was interesting because parallel to the “Then” story is the “Now” POV, so I already knew what was happening in the present.
The “Now” POV takes place after the two have been apart for about a decade. Over the years, Ethan’s financial and social situation has changed and life is treating him well, but Ruby is still devastated by the thing went down years before. New York isn’t as enchanting as it once was and Ruby’s life isn’t as thrilling as she imagined it would be. Something is missing. The fact that Ruby and Ethan have been brought together to the wedding of mutual loved ones is awkward and uncomfortable. And still, Ruby is inwardly thrilled because she still feels a spark of something that may still be there.
I feel like the “Now” timeline is the stronger of the two and perhaps the most interesting because there is the most hope there for the future. I also love the characterization, the setting, and the backdrop of Ruby’s sister’s wedding.
So, yes, there is definitely a nod to Jane Austen’s Persuasion, especially since these two have been brought back together after years apart, Ethan is no longer economically challenged like he was before, and Ruby is still pining away for him in her heart. There is rising tension throughout the “Now” POV as Ruby analyzes nearly every move and word that Ethan makes, trying to figure out if he means this or that or whatever. I’ve seen where some reviewers don’t particularly love this because they think it makes Ruby look a little on the catty side, but I really found it to be very much like those people that are very human and heartbroken and dying inside, just having a fit to know if the one they love maybe, possibly loves them back.
The thing that I loved most about the book was also one of the most stressful: the increasing tension. Both the “Then” and “Now” timelines have this slow build over the course of the story. By the time I got to the end, I was about to have a royal fit over the two major conflicts, which were apparently about to be revealed/resolved at about the same time. I loved this, but it was deliciously brutal. I wish I could say that I had tons of faith in Now-Ruby and Now-Ethan all along the way and that I just knew what the outcome would be, but I truly wasn’t 100% sure what would happen with these two until it actually did.
Selfishly – selfishly – when the book ended, I wish there was more to the story. I definitely wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters, including the secondary cast. I grew so attached to them and everything that happened to them throughout the course of the story – happy, sad, and funny. The secondaries in particular were so completely charming.
The One That Got Away is a book for my rereads shelf, a book for the stressful times in life, a book to take me away to another place. Coincidentally, that is just what I used the book for this time: I was SO stressed and busy during the couple of weeks that I read the book – I mean, I was completely drowning with unexpected life stuff – so I read a little bit of this every night until I finished after a couple of weeks. Instead of flying through it like I normally would a book this size, I took my time and really got to know these characters, and I loved it so much. I think this is one of my favorites from this year and I’d love to add more like it to the stacks that I’m reading.
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ABOUT MELISSA PIMENTEL
MELISSA PIMENTEL grew up in a small town in Massachusetts in a house without cable and therefore much of her childhood was spent watching 1970s British comedy on public television. These days, she spends much of her time reading in the various pubs of Stoke Newington and engaging in a long-standing emotional feud with their disgruntled cat, Welles. She works in publishing and is also the author of Love by the Book.