Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.
Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.
Tell Me More: Distance doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder. If anything, it clouds the heart, sweeping in fog that makes it all too easy to forget what was there to hold onto. And in a city of 8.3 million and climbing, even living in the same apartment building might not be enough to stir the potential for love into something more. The Geography of You and Me is that story, and more.
Like Owen, I moved around a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean it’s only been three years since the last time I moved to another country, and being told I need to pack never fails to make me anxious. Owen’s uncertainty and reluctance to get attached to anything is very familiar to me, and I found that I understood him more than Lucy at some points. The dialogue is a shining point in Geography–Lucy and Owen aren’t overly witty, and their respective shyness still colours their words. Both of them are hesitant, unsure, and Jennifer E. Smith does such a glorious job of choosing exactly the right words and actions to portray that.
The thematic and emotional core of this story is obvious, however–it’s right there in the title. In the middle of being sent on new paths and searching for home, Owen and Lucy learn to map their own hearts. Before they can be ready to learn each other, they have to learn the valleys and hills that make up their identities. They both have relationships with their parents that aren’t quite ideal, but Smith doesn’t just let those issues rest. Owen and his father relearn how to talk to each other after his mother’s death; Lucy and her parents discover the ways distance has shaped them. The blackout is a catalyst, but they both have to make the choice to pursue what they’ve started. Smith doesn’t expect her readers to automatically assume that Owen and Lucy will be together in the end, and in fact there are points where you might feel that maybe that sweet first rush of infatuation will just stay a memory in their minds. Not every meet-cute ends in happiness, after all. This is a story that lets its characters breathe.
The Final Say: Jennifer E. Smith is an artisan, her words delicate and strong as they sketch out a map of stories intertwining on a muggy summer night in The Geography of You and Me.
Jennifer E. Smith is the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Storm Makers, You Are Here, and The Comeback Season. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and currently works as an editor in New York City. Her writing has been translated into 28 languages.