3 out of 4 stars
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Ellie is a woman in love with literature and philosophy. She is married to a wealthy man she admires but with whom she has nothing in common. She lives with all the comforts money can buy and spends her days with her young son. She has convinced herself that she is content with her life despite her lack of friendships or intimacy. Neil is a man who has always lived above and outside the community around him. He has never been able to find anyone or anything that challenges him intellectually, including his wife. His boredom and despair have brought him to the point of considering suicide.
One fateful day, Ellie happens into the bakery where Neil works to buy the cream puffs her son adores. Seeing her disappointment at finding them to be sold out, Neil gives her the stash he had set aside for himself. As a thank you, Ellie returns a few days later with a copy of her favorite book, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Ellie herself does not understand what compels her to buy the thousand page work for a complete stranger who will most likely not even read it. But the novel turns out to be the very thing that Neil needed. The two become pen pals, bonding over poetry and philosophy. Both discover in each other something they never knew they needed. Eventually through emails and letters, they realize they are soul mates, despite not even remembering what the other looks like. How will they reconcile their need for each other with their obligations to their families?
Looking Glass Friends: A Novel Inspired by Real Love Letters by E. L. Neve is so much more than just a love story. The book is full of quotes and philosophical questions inspired by writers and philosophers, such as Ayn Rand, T. S. Eliot, and Leonardo da Vinci. In addition to the theme of true love, the novel tackles the concepts of sacrifice, obligation, and self worth.
The novel takes place chronologically over the course of about three months, and the viewpoint alternates between the four major characters: Neil, Ellie, and each of their spouses. In addition, the reader gets to act as voyeur to the private emails and letters exchanged between the two soul mates.
I found the character development in this novel to be superb. Looking at events from each character’s point of view allows the reader to really understand their thoughts and motivations. Neve does a fantastic job of revealing each character’s personal values by the way they notice and describe the world around them. For example, Ellie’s husband is the only character who spends time describing the other characters’ physical attributes, and thus reveals his superficiality. Neil, on the other hand, almost never describes physical characteristics, instead focusing on intellectual and philosophical strengths and weaknesses. The reader gets acquainted with each character as an individual, and is able to understand the strengths and flaws of each. While I can’t say I grew to love any of the characters, I found that they are all realistic and relatable.
The imagery used in the book is good as well. Neve's writing style is beautiful and poetic, and it really drew me in. The author does a good job of setting the scene, and most of the descriptions of the setting seem intentional. She even goes so far as to have the Seattle winter weather mirror Neil’s emotions throughout the story. There are only a couple instances in which I found descriptions either unnecessary or too far out there for me to grasp their significance.
During the first half of the book, I felt that the pacing of the novel was good, with a nice balance of psychological development and physical events. About two thirds of the way through, I did find myself wishing that there was a bit less time spent on the characters processing their feelings, and a bit more action to move the book to a resolution. Although the book seems professionally edited, I found a handful of minor grammatical errors. Because of the slower pacing and errors, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I do feel that the themes and character development were great, and this novel has a lot to offer a reader.
If you are looking for an easy beach read romance, this is probably not the book for you. This is a deeper love story that really makes you think. If you like literature or philosophy, and especially if you are a fan of Ayn Rand, you will love Looking Glass Friends.
Looking Glass Friends
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