Published by Penguin Random House in 2016
Kindle Edition, 396 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-698-40815-9
I picked up The Love That Split the World on a whim. I think I had read one or two good reviews, and then I saw it on sale for the kindle so I took my chance. And I’m glad I did! Also look how beutiful that cover is AHHH.
I’ve tried to write a summary for this story several times, but I just can’t quite seem to get it right, so I’ll copy Goodreads’ here: Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves. Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first–her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a preschool where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
Right off the bat, cw for abusive relationships, rape, and alcoholism. I won’t be discussing any of these in-depth, but they are present in the book.
I’ll be honest, for the first 20-30 pages, I struggled a bit with the writing. Natalie herself was a somewhat irritating as a narrator and it kept feeling like the whole book was trying too hard. Some of Natalie’s inward thoughts felt petty and I rolled my eyes several times. But the writing evened out some and I adjusted to the style and fell into the story.
Things got better very quickly. I liked Natalie, I loved Beau more than I could ever love a real human being, I really appreciated the importance of the deep friendship between Natalie and her best friend, and I was enthralled by the plot itself. Emily Henry wove a beautiful tale, interspersed with indigenous peoples’ myths. I liked this concept, but was a little wary–and with good reason. A cursory search led me to this piece, which I highly recommend folx read. As a white person, I cannot speak to the accuracy of Henry’s novel, but I will admit a lot of the discussion of indigenous peoples made me feel deeply uncomfortable. From the White Savior adoption aspect to the depiction of indigenous peoples as bad people who live in bad places, I felt that more bad than good came of Henry’s attempt at inclusion–but I’m no expert and I’d rather defer to the opinions of non-white folx on this one.
Examining the novel from an enjoyment standpoint alone, I’d say Emily Henry did a great job with her debut novel. It wasn’t perfect, but it was compelling, interesting, and heart-wrenching. I tentatively recommend it, but with the caveat that it deserves some serious examination when it comes to reinforcing negative sterotypes about indigenous peoples.