Book review: ‘The Opposite Of Love’ by Julie Buxbaum

With wit, tenderness and a flawed, realistic 20-something heroine, Julie Buxbaum’s The Opposite Of Love — and lead character Emily Haxby — swiftly worked its way right into my heart muscles.

New York-based lawyer Emily lives in a cocoon of her own creation, timidly sidestepping her own life as she pours every ounce of her energy into her position at a major law firm. Working obsessively helps drown out the sadness she feels over her complicated relationship with her father and the residual grief she’s delayed over her mother’s passing fifteen years before, but none of these things can stay buried for long.

When her boyfriend Andrew begins making sidelong comments about an engagement ring, Emily feels nothing but sheer panic. She ends things unceremoniously, backing away from him and the life they’d created to hide out in more of her own grief. Andrew will eventually leave her, Emily reasons, no matter how much she wishes it could be different. So in a classic move I’ve even used myself, Emily cuts him first — she hurts him before he can hurt her, believing that’s the only way it can be.

Buxbaum’s The Opposite Of Love is a complicated novel to wrap up in a tiny package, so I’m not even going to try. It’s Emily’s story about growth, fear, insecurity, miscommunication, love, redemption and, most importantly, hope — the knowledge that the way things have always been isn’t the one, true predictor for the way they’ll always be. After an inappropriate run-in with her boss at the firm, Emily realizes she’s become a mere observer of her own life. And with the help of best friend Jess, her grandfather Jack and his spirited neighbor Ruth, Emily emerges from a deep, numbing depression to see the world with fresh eyes.

There’s so much to appreciate and love about Emily — and Buxbaum’s writing. As so much of Emily’s general catatonic state revolves around her mother’s death, the story could have become very maudlin — and I wasn’t really sure how much of that I was up for. But I shouldn’t have worried! Buxbaum more than proved herself to me in her stunning second novel After You, which frequently reduced me to tears. While her stories deal with grief and loss, they’re really about the way we continue on in the aftermath of tragedy — and how we decide to progress past it. Emily avoided her feelings for so long, deciding instead to try and work her way through them — literally — by clocking in countless hours on the job. Not exactly a novel concept but, in Buxbaum’s hands, it felt like anything but an ordinary story.

Emily’s attempts at reconnecting with Andrew felt like little stabs at my heart; who hasn’t waited (and waited…) for an e-mail, phone call or text message that was never going to come? I could feel her desperation to make him understand, but she didn’t really understand any of it herself. It’s easy to point a finger and call out, as I wanted to, “Classic quarter-life crisis!” But it went so much deeper than that. And I could absolutely relate to Emily and all her attempts at building a life from the ground up, cheering her on as she unsealed the time capsule that stored all her true feelings. Like her father and grandfather, I was proud of her.

I’m not sure which words — other than awesome — work best to describe Buxbaum’s writing, which seems to effortlessly cut to the real root of every issue. She’s insightful. I constantly found myself nodding along to her descriptions of seemingly mundane events, feeling as Emily has felt about waiting and wondering and worrying. While The Opposite Of Love wasn’t quite the bucket-of-cold-water-to-the-face that After You was, I still feel like she gets me. And if you grab either of her two outstanding novels, I think you’ll feel like she gets you, too.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0385341237 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Copy purchased by Meg

12 thoughts on “Book review: ‘The Opposite Of Love’ by Julie Buxbaum

  1. I loved, loved, LOVED this book and I’m glad to see that you enjoyed it as well. I think that Julie Buxbaum is one of my new favourite (recently discovered by me) authors!


  2. Great review Meg! I’ve been interested in this one, but now I’m convinced. This looks like a book I could appreciate, and I haven’t read the author before.


  3. I love the cover. And I love your review more. I really don’t want emotional books since I easily get teary eyed but I guess I could try this. Reading your review for After You!


  4. Hi Meg,
    Thanks so much for the lovely review! There is no better feeling than finding a reader who gets exactly what I was trying to convey with a book, and so I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read and review both The Opposite of Love and After You!

    All the best,
    Julie Buxbaum


  5. Pingback: Books read in 2009 « write meg!

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