Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18B. Hadley’s in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it. (Goodreads summary)
Could hitting a red light change your life? Losing your phone charger? Getting a paper cut? Can a string of seemingly insignificant moments amount to something life changing? When Hadley misses her flight to London by four minutes, she never expects to meet Oliver – someone she instantly connects with, someone who’s dealing with his own personal demons, someone who makes her view the world in a slightly different way.
Hadley. I love Hadley. Though I can’t empathize with her particular set of circumstances, she’s a character with whose situation, whose frankness and honesty I connected with. Hadley is a girl who has been greatly affected by her parents’ divorce and it has left her very hurt and embittered toward her father, who left her and her mother. When her father decides to remarry, to the woman he left Hadley’s mother for, she unwillingly finds herself in the one place she never hoped to be – on a plane to London, wedding-bound. I love Hadley’s confusion in her feelings toward her father – her anger and resentment combined with her undeniable longing for the way things used to be. I love her gutsiness. I love how she wears her heart on her sleeve. I love her journey towards closure as her chance meeting with Oliver causes her to finally start dealing with some of her repressed issues.
Oliver’s character is a wonderful compliment to Hadley’s. Where Hadley doesn’t hide her emotions well, Oliver is a bit more of a mystery. Though not quite as transparent as Hadley, I never felt as though he is anything less than genuine. I love Oliver’s intelligent (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor, his keen insights, his rare moments of vulnerability, his kindness and general optimistic outlook.
Like I’ve said before, I don’t believe in love at first sight, though I think people can form instantaneous and lasting connections; that souls are drawn to other like souls. One of the biggest draws of this novel for me is the idea that one could meet another person by a simple twist of fate and, in a very short space of time, form such a powerful bond. From the meet-cute and throughout the book, Hadley & Oliver have so many toe-curlingly good, sigh-inducingly hopeful moments. This is interspersed with deeper instances of personal revelation and introspection as they both deal with the issues they’re individually sorting out. They each are perhaps exactly what the other needs in that moment, and it’s just beautiful to watch their relationship as it begins to grow over the Atlantic and across the armrest of seats 18A and 18B.
Though this book focuses mainly on Hadley and Oliver, it was also about Hadley’s damaged relationship with her dad. Her journey towards coming to terms with her parents’ divorce and her dad’s abandonment of her and her mom was a plot point I loved. She’s so conflicted by her feelings for her dad – anger, betrayal, sadness. There’s this lovely poignant wistfulness to the story as Hadley remembers snippets of their lives before the separation and a sense of incompleteness as she refuses to honestly confront her feelings about her current family situation. Her emotional progression throughout the book felt very natural, and had me a bit teary-eyed and snuffly as this storyline worked toward it’s resolution.
Smith’s writing style is another reason I fell in love with this book. She sets the scene masterfully, effortlessly giving the reader an abundance of detail without being verbosely descriptive. I don’t know if an author can write cinematically, but Smith does. She also has a wonderful way of taking the everyday mundane and turning it into something noteworthy and extraordinary. Waiting in an airport terminal, grabbing food at an airport bistro or being cramped into an airplane seat for 8 hours are not usually events to write home about. It’s not particularly unusual or special for those things to occur. Yet, Smith’s storytelling through Hadley’s soul-searchingly honest voice makes it magical and engaging.
Overall, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, while a fun, romantic comedy, has some really insightful things to say about relationships, love, closure and healing, and Smith manages this beautifully without the serious moments becoming too heavy. It’s the kind of story that had me considering the relationships and events in my own life and the insignificant moments that have had such a lasting impact on the direction of my life. I love when a book can achieve that perfect balance between light-hearted fun and introspective depth, and this book did that for me.
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Published: January 2nd 2012 by Poppy
Format:Hardcover, 256 pages; Kindle; Nook
Source: E-ARC provided via NetGalley