Published in 2011. 296 pages.
Earlier this year I read Emily Wing Smith's first novel The Way He Lived. I wanted to love it - but, alas, I found it a little wanting. Perhaps my expectations were lower for Back When You Were Easier to Love - but I adored it. The plot is predictable, but the execution is so, so worth the read!
I enjoy explorations of the themes of conformity and being true to oneself, and Back When You Were Easier to Love does that well. I found the underpinnings of these words from protagonist Joy quite thought-provoking:
I didn't like any of the Soccer Lovin' Kids. I didn't like how easy it was for all of them, how they all were Haven. They knew the sport they were supposed to play, so they did. They knew what they were supposed to look like, so they did. They knew what they were supposed to believe, so they did. But none of them were real to me.
I did enjoy Smith's writing style in The Way He Lived - and I enjoyed it even more in Back When You Were Easier to Love. Here is a passage I liked for both its humor and its poignancy (again from Joy's perspective):
I eat. I eat and I eat and I eat and do not stop. I do not stop to talk to Noah. I do not stop to take proper breaths. If I stop I might realize I'm no longer hungry, and if I realize I'm no longer hungry, I'll have to admit to myself that all the buffets in Las Vegas won't fill the hole in my heart.
Emily Wing Smith is one of The Contemps, and author Lindsey Leavitt spotlighted Back When You Were Easier to Love here. Additional thoughts can be found at the blogs It's All About Books and Karen M. Krueger. Emily Wing Smith's blog is here.
By the way, I have to make mention that Back When You Were Easier to Love is set in Utah (near my home) and that Joy is a Mormon (as I am) - so in some ways I feel that Smith is writing about my people. (In response to Smith's - or Joy's - observations about the absurdities of Utah Mormon culture, my 15-year-old daughter exclaimed, "I think she's one of us!") I also have to confess that I love Barry Manilow's music and have had some of the songs mentioned in the book running through my mind since I finished reading. (I think my favorite song is "Weekend in New England," though, which isn't included in the book.)