I've had Love You, Mean It: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Friendship by Patricia Carrington, Julia Collins, Claudia Gerbasi and Ann Haynes on my TBR list for quite some time. One of the things that put it there, besides the topic, was the fact that Ann (formerly Renzi) Haynes was in my graduating class at St. Lawrence. I knew her only slightly, but since Amy and I were co-writing the Class Notes, we were notified about the book and it immediately made that which was still at a distance, very real.
September 11, 2001 shook us, as a nation, to the core. As individuals, we cried for the anonymous victims and their families. But, it turned out that Ann Haynes, someone from our little community of 1984 SLU Alumni, lost her husband that day when he didn't make it out of his office in the World Trade Center until it collapsed. Suddenly the empathy became more focused, the terror more real. It really could have happened to one of us.
The four women who co-authored the book were living diverse lives in and around New York City. Initially, their only connection was that they were widows of men murdered on September 11. Two came together as nervous phone calls were exchanged in the immediate aftermath because they both knew their husbands worked together. As time went on, connections were made until almost a year later, there were four who decided to meet for cocktails. Four women. Newlywed, suburban working Mom, Manhattanite, glamourous, affluent, world traveler, gregarious, articulate...all of these could be applied to one or more of the widows. But in an instant, all of that meant nothing because of the loves of their lives had been lost....no, murdered...on September 11.
Their bond grew as the months went by. They went away together after the first anniversary of the attacks to help each other heal, allow each other to grieve and just be with people who understood. Their shared tragedy brought an interdependence that helped each one gain the strength and independence that she needed to move on with life.
Please believe me when I tell you that this is by no means a depressing book. The women's connection allowed them to continue to talk about and honor "the Boys" while figuring out where this put them in the world and where they were going from there. As I read, I thought of seeing a foursome of fabulous women sipping cocktails in a trendy bar and assuming it was a Sex-and-the-City-esque girls' night out. I shed my assumptions and probably some jealousy of those who were living in "the City" and spending weekends in the Hamptons and having the "secret number" that would get them into the best restaurant.
Besides each dealing with her own situation, each was dealing with the reactions and expectations of her and her husband's family and friends. Each would see the pity in the eyes of people who didn't understand why she hadn't yet washed the last t-shirt he was wearing or changed the message on the answering machine or taken his name off the checkbook. Within the Widows Club, they could talk about all these things openly, share their deepest fears and even laugh together, sometimes at things that outsiders might see as inappropriate.
This is not a book about tragedy. It is a book about friendship. It is about how people come together through shared experience and find that their connection is so much more than the reason they came together in the first place. You will read this and think of your own circle of friends and how you came together and how lucky you are to have each other. You will think about your own relationships and how precious each moment can be.
I had some misgivings about Love You, Mean It before I started it. Written from four perspectives in alternating paragraphs and chapters, I thought (incisive reviewer that I want to see myself as), "Oh...that's not going to turn out well. Even in the most talented hands, the multiple perspective style has ended up horribly." (Huge exceptions, of course, most notably The Poisonwood Bible.) I was wrong. There is an honesty that would be lost if The Widows had turned their stories over to a single writer. It would have created a distance from the actuality of their stories and somehow made it less real.
Upon finishing the book on the airplane, on the way to see one of my best friends, I thought about friendship. I thought about my admiration for four women I have never met. And I thought about hope.