Emily is enamored of Jack's first wife Libbie after her grandmother tells her the heartbreaking story of their marriage, and sets her sights on finding her. At first she says she just wants to make sure that she is okay, but really she wants to find a way to bring some of that old joy back to her father that he's been missing since her mother passed away.
This story is split between modern day and the past, with the majority of it set in the latter, starting in spring of 1968. We're transported back to the end of Jack and Libbie's junior year of high school, and the beginning of their tumultuous love affair, which may have been young love, but was true love if you ever saw it. Libbie was a beautiful and kind girl from a wealthy family, and Jack was a handsome and hardworking boy from a working class family. In that time, in their small Minnesota town, it was frowned upon (mostly by the rich) to bring those two "classes" together socially.
But Jack and Libbie's young love was fierce and true, and they defied her mother's wishes and were married a year out of high school. Around this time, we see Libbie's mental state decline. She's acting erratic, with high-highs and low-lows, which she self-medicated with Valium prescribed by her family doctor and alcohol. She begins to recognize her mother's patterns in herself, which only serves to drive her even more out of control.
There's so much more to it than that, but that's a quick overview. The struggle that Jack goes through trying the best he knows how to help Libbie, the horrible actions of Libbie's family (which constantly made me spitting angry), and the eventual blow-up that would be the final time Jack and Libbie would see each other for 30-ish years.
The final 60 or so pages of the book are all that are left for us to find out if Emily finds Libbie, who has been hidden away by parents and family who are now all deceased or moved far away. Although it's a fairly short conclusion, it was also pretty powerful...and I sobbed my way through it. I'm a sucker for a story about the power of true love.
I'll leave it at that and not give away the ending, so that you can read this unsuspectingly powerful story for yourself—just be prepared for moments of raw emotion.
There was also plenty of mention of alcohol—beer, gin, vodka, whiskey, and wine. And while I almost feel a little wrong making these red wine spritzers since they were sort of associated with Libbie's downward spiral, in a twisted way, they were a minor character in that portion of the story.
"Let's celebrate!" Candy said, heading over to her fridge. She pulled out a cheap bottle of red wine and a bottle of 7Up.
Libbie watched as she filled three glasses half full of wine and them filled them the rest of the way with 7Up. "I've never seen anyone do that before," Libbie said as Candy handed her a glass.
Jackie giggled. "It's a cheap version of a spritzer."
While the ones Libbie drank were just 7Up and red wine, the ones I made are slightly more sophisticated, but still just as easy to sip.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.