It is weird when historical events you actually remember or where there for suddenly pop up in fiction.
Two books I’ve read in the past 12 months, including This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, have used the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York as plot devices. Not as the central focus of the stories, but rather as a fact of life, a moment that infiltrated the characters lives far down the road. The other book was Just Like Family, which was in the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival book list and you can read about here.
I suppose enough time has now passed that if you are a New York writer writing about New York, those world altering events are impossible to ignore. People who were teenagers or children in 2001 are now adults and still processing the seminal television moment and tragedy of their youth.
In Leslie Cohen’s novel, Eve’s mother died during the destruction of the second tower. The moment, not too long after her father abandoned her, has left Eve unable to form attachments. Or, when she does, she views them as ephemeral. She’d rather fix others than herself. Her path intersects with Ben’s over several years and eventually, they fall in love. But Eve can’t accept a good thing and she does something stupid. Another character shines some light on why.
“Eve. You didn’t do anything that bad,” he said. “You just wanted to blow up your life.”
“You wanted to blow up your life,” he repeated.
“I didn’t want to.”
“Oh yes, you most certainly did. People do what they want to do, and you wanted to blow up your life … It happens to everyone. Well, it happens to some people. For whatever reason, sometimes you just want to fuck shit up. I’m sure you had your reasons.”
This is the part of the book that resonated most for me. Mostly, because I’ve actually said: “I want to blow up my life and start over.” Maybe it’s a millennial plague?
I never do blow it up. That requires a lot of energy. On the other hand, I also joke a lot about running away and joining the circus, and then I remember I’m no longer flexible, have terrible balance, am not great with hard labour and animals and hate crowds. It is, in fact, too late to join the circus.
Anyway, as a love story goes, This Love Story Will Self-Destruct isn’t a meet cute. It has the flavour of real life and the complexity of love between two adults who are equal partners and who haven’t made it through life entirely unscathed by its influences. And this, I think, is a good thing. We need more love stories where the characters aren’t driven solely by the hysteria of the feeling of being in love.