When Jennifer Weiner’s WHO DO YOU LOVE went on sale last year, it quickly became one of the bestselling and best-loved love stories of the year, featured in appearances on Good Morning America and CBS This Morning, and in the pages of People, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, and US Weekly. Not since this #1 New York Times bestselling author’s debut, Good in Bed, was published fifteen years ago has one of her novels had such an impact on fans and critics alike.
Now in paperback, WHO DO YOU LOVE (April 5, 2016; $16.00; Washington Square Press/Atria Books) is a sweeping tale about the passage of time and the differences between people. It touches on class, race, religion, celebrity, charity, what makes us strong, what renders us vulnerable, and how the people we choose to love, and how we love them, defines who we become—how the measure of a life is who you love. It’s an unforgettable story about true love, real life, and second chances…
Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are just eight years old when they meet one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect and a veteran of hospitals, Rachel’s intrigued by the boy who shows up alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to a doctor and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again. Yet, over the next three decades, Andy and Rachel will meet again and again — linked by chance, history, and the memory of the first time they met, a night that changed both of their lives.
WHO DO YOU LOVE is the kind of book you read in one sitting, as “readers will laugh, cry, and find themselves caught up in the story, as Weiner explores the idea: ‘Do soul mates really exist?” (AP). It is Jennifer Weiner’s most unforgettable work yet and sure to become everyone’s favorite love story this spring and summer if it isn’t already.
You can get your copy now on Amazon
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (April 5, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1451617828
- ISBN-13: 978-1451617825
About the Author
Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twelve books, including Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, which was made into a major motion picture, and Who Do You Love. A graduate of Princeton University and contributor to the New York Times Opinion section, Jennifer lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Who Do You Love
I was born with a broken heart. This was a line that got me a lot of sympathy from preschool through sixth grade, when I decided that a congenital heart condition was not what I wanted to be known for, and stopped talking about it at school. My condition was called tricuspid atresia, which meant that on the right side, the valve between the upper and lower chambers of my heart wasn’t formed correctly. Blood that should have flowed smoothly from my heart to my lungs moved instead in a sluggish trickle—a lazy schoolkid who’d overslept and couldn’t be bothered to run for the bus. Not a good thing if you want to, as the doctors say, survive.
I’d been diagnosed thirty-six hours after my birth, when I’d done the docs the favor of turning a lovely shade of plum. At the local hospital, they didn’t know exactly what was wrong, only that they couldn’t fix it, so they airlifted me to Miami Children’s Hospital, where I received something called a Blalock-Taussig shunt to give the blood an unobstructed path.
Once I’d recovered, my terrified parents took me home, along with an oxygen tank and instructions about what to do if I turned blue or started gasping. For the first year of my life, I slept in a portable crib pushed up next to my mother’s side of the bed, with her hand on my chest. Photographs show a tiny, wrinkled raisin of an infant floating in her onesies, with none of the succulent, squeezable plumpness of normal babies. “Failure to thrive” was what they wrote on my charts, and my mother took it like a straight-A student receiving her first failing grade, like she’d been the one who’d been unable to successfully nurture me, instead of me being the one who hadn’t grown. Before I was born, she’d been a librarian—just part-time after my brother had come, but it was work she loved. After I was diagnosed, she quit and devoted herself to my care.
“We used to put olive oil in your baby food,” she told me—this was when I was a teenager and had embarked on the first of many lose-five-pounds-in-a-weekend schemes, that one involving grapefruits and cucumbers. She would melt butter in my rice cereal, slather it on bread and crackers, feed me milk shakes where other kids just got milk. Still, it was years before I crept into the very lowest height/weight percentiles for children my age, years before I graduated to my own bedroom, where, all through my childhood and into my teens, I would wake up at least once a week with my mother’s hand on my chest and her face twisted in fear that would melt into relief when she was sure that I was still breathing, that my heart was still beating, that I was still alive.
“We thought we would lose you,” she told me, over and over. I couldn’t blame her. Besides all the surgeries and the risks they involved, when I was six I’d had pleurisy, a lung infection that made my oxygen saturation levels drop dangerously low. My parents brought me to my cardiologist, who sent me straight to the hospital, where the surgeons performed an emergency procedure that night to close off veins that had gotten too big, in a misguided effort to help my body deal with the faulty valve. I’d gone home the next day, even though my mom said she’d begged the doctors to keep me longer, that she didn’t think she’d be able to stand it if she found me turning purple again. By my seventh birthday, I’d been hospitalized six times—once after the pleurisy, once with pneumonia, four more times for cardiac catheterizations so the doctors could check the shunt.
When I was eight, I went back to Miami Children’s for open-heart surgery, a hemi-Fontan procedure that would replace the original shunt and would keep me in the hospital for a month. My mother had been terrified about the operation, of having my chest cracked open again, my poor battered heart exposed to the world. Every Friday for three months before the big day, she would drag me to synagogue and, when the rabbi asked if anyone needed a misheberach, a special prayer for healing, she’d march me up to the bimah, the altar in front of the Torah, so he could put his hands on my shoulders and pray. I didn’t tell my mom that I was secretly almost looking forward to the surgery. Once I’d had it, maybe she would stop worrying so much, and I could spend my Friday nights watching TV.
The only thing I remembered from the operation was Dr. Bob, the anesthesiologist, telling me to count backward from ten. “Ten . . . nine . . . eight . . .” I said . . . and then I woke up in the recovery room with my mom next to the bed, crying. For the first few days I was on a ventilator. My mom would hold my hand, refusing to let go, eating the sandwiches and apples she’d packed for her lunch one-handed, talking to me constantly. My father would come after work, bringing a stuffed animal every time—a fuzzy yellow duck, a teddy bear, a pink bunny with silky, fur-lined ears. He would tuck each new toy into the crook of my arm and deposit a kiss on my forehead.
“She’s a fighter,” he would tell my mom, handing her tissues, patting her back. Then he’d sit in the corner, reading magazines, while my mom would comb my hair and fuss with my gown and cry when she thought I was sleeping. “My number-one mom,” I would say, and she’d give me a brave, tremulous smile. I spent days, and a few sleepless nights, trying to figure out the right words, something I could say that would comfort her and would also be true. I promise I won’t die was the obvious choice . . . but I wasn’t sure I could promise that, and I didn’t think she’d like knowing that I thought death was even a possibility. I stuck with “Number-one mom,” which was what it said on the mug I’d painted for her birthday.
At eight o’clock they’d finally leave. My mom would kiss me, her freckled face pale and her curly brown hair, which was usually blown out straight and meticulously styled, pulled back in a careless ponytail. My dad would steer her out the door, one heavy hand between her shoulder blades, rubbing in little circles. Sometimes I’d see her rest her head on his shoulder. Sometimes I’d hear him whisper “I love you” in her ear.
By the second week, I was still in bed, still on a feeding tube and a cannula, with drains sticking out of my chest. “Lookin’ good!” said my hospital friend Alice, popping into my room even though I didn’t think she was supposed to be leaving hers. When I’d arrived there’d been a big sign reading MASKS AND HAND-WASHING MANDATORY on her door, and I’d heard the nurses scold her for wandering. Alice was twelve and in sixth grade, but she was so small that we were basically the same size. Alice had had leukemia as a baby, and it had affected her growth. She would always be short, even as a grown-up—“That is, if I make it that long,” she would say. For a while, the doctors thought she was cured. She’d made it past the five-year mark without a recurrence. Then, when she was ten, she’d started getting sick again. Still, she’d been out in the world long enough to tell me about the roller rink, where my parents never let me go, and about PG-rated movies, and what kind of homework you got in sixth grade. She had kissed two boys playing Seven Minutes in Heaven at a friend’s birthday party, and she’d seen Flashdance, to which my parents had said, “Absolutely not.” They hadn’t even wanted to buy me the soundtrack. I’d had to get Nana to buy it for my birthday.
By the third week, the doctors said that I was healing beautifully, and that I was well enough to eat real food. My mother’s tears slowed to a trickle. Instead of tucking her hair back into a scrunchie, she’d coax it into ringlets and then do my hair, too. She’d stopped wearing T-shirts and jeans and was back in her usual uniform, crisply ironed cotton blouses and linen pants with narrow leather belts, and I got to swap the hospital gowns that opened in the back for pajamas. We’d play Boggle or checkers, with the games set up on the hinged table that rolled in place above my bed, and she’d let me try on her makeup when she went outside to speak quietly to the nurses and the doctors.
My father would still stop by at night, bringing me things that I could do, not just hold—hundred-piece puzzles, a Walkman with new tapes—Wham! and Madonna, Whitney Houston and Billy Ocean. When my parents weren’t there, I would take my new gifts to Alice’s room. After I’d scrubbed my hands and slipped on a surgical mask, we could sit on her bed and listen to music, stretching the headphones wide so that she could hear the music in her left ear and I could listen with my right.
“Take that stupid thing off,” she’d say, pointing at my mask. “Like that’s going to help anything.” Alice was terminal. “That means I’m going to die,” she’d told me the first day I’d gotten out of bed, when we were in the playroom, together on a couch. It was September in Florida, sunny and warm, and we could see palm trees outside the windows and hear the drone of the mower as a man in a khaki uniform steered it across the lawn. A five-year-old who’d come for a kidney transplant ran around pretending he was a fireman. A little girl with a bald head sat reading The Cat in the Hat with her mom. “They don’t ever say it in front of me. But I know.”