I have moved away from writing book reviews in recent years because I’ve come to realize just how subjective they can be. Though I might love a book and totally resonate with it, that may not be the case for someone else. But, every once in a while, I come across a book that I love so much that I want to share my thoughts about it with others. Us, in Pieces by Tasha Cotter and Christopher Green is that kind of book. The characters are brought to life on the page and the writing is so beautiful. About twenty pages in, I was thinking about how much I would love to see their story in film. And when I saw the pages thinning towards the end of the book, I waited an extra day to finish, because I just didn’t want Lilly and Adin’s story to end.
Part of my love for this novel is that I’ve previously been in a rekindled relationship from the past, and I can totally resonate with what the characters go through. But more than that, the novel addresses what happens when we don’t communicate face-to-face. So much of our communication these days is in the form of text messages, e-mails, and social media, and this novel accurately portrays what happens when we try to interpret what someone is trying to say when we don’t have them in front of us to see their facial expressions or hear their tone of voice. So much gets lost, so much miscommunication happens when we are too afraid to face each other and say what it is we think and feel. The novel highlights how far we’ve moved away from being vulnerable in our communications (choosing texts and e-mails over face to face or phone conversations) and the consequences. I love that the novel alternates between the two main characters – Lilly and Adin – and that the reader can see their perspective on what is happening. It gives us a birds-eye view of how our intentions can be misinterpreted with digital communications and wreak havoc in people’s lives. But more than that, the alternating narrative puts up a kind of mirror that exposes the self. In trying to interpret digital communication, all of our own insecurities and preconceptions rise up like an ugly monster and are promptly placed on the person who is not there in front of us to defend themselves. We do this so we don’t have to look at the most vulnerable parts of our self.
Something else that really spoke to me about this novel was how well the authors portrayed what it is like to rekindle a long-lost relationship. We often believe the person, even ten years later, is still the same person that we fell in love with so many years before. That is almost always not the case. And so, we must navigate the loss of the person we thought they were while also figuring out if the person they have become is a person that we can love and share our lives with.
An underlying current in the novel is a shared love of music between Lilly and Adin. The authors put together a playlist which I thought was really cool. You can find the Us, in Pieces playlist here.
A few favorite lines:
“This was my only chance to see what had become of Lilly, this girl who had become almost like a character from a book that I had once loved as a child” (p. 33).
“It was even darker now, a heavy low-hanging sky pregnant with snowfall” (p. 133).
There are so many more lines like these that make you pause and take a deep breath so you can take in their beauty.