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Love, Loss and Redemption: A Review of Jacqueline Friedland’s “That’s Not A Thing”

Have you ever wondered what would happen if someone who walked out of your life ended up walking right back in? This is the premise of That’s Not A Thing, the debut new adult novel by author and lawyer Jacqueline Friedland that has been described as the perfect book for fans of Jojo Moyes and Karma Brown.

Meredith Altman has a sudden run-in with her ex-fiance, Wesley Latner, just as she is preparing to wed someone else. This encounter shakes Meredith to her core and calls into question her relationship with her new fiance, Aaron, as well as her perspective on her life. The situation is then further complicated by the reveal that Wesley has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The first half of the novel divides time between the present day, in which Meredith grapples with Wesley’s sudden return, and the past, which focuses on the development of their relationship at Columbia. Meredith’s memories are recounted linearly, which is helpful for establishing a timeline in the reader’s mind but doesn’t always mesh well with the chapters about the present day. Additionally, this dual perspective ends halfway through the novel, leaving readers wondering what happened in the time that wasn’t covered.

 

Even before the reader is able to discern much about Aaron, the difference between him and Wesley is clear. Aaron is the safe option – someone financially stable, caring and invested in helping others (he’s described as a “baby-saving doctor” in the blurb), while Wesley is more untraditional, breaking the rules to pursue Meredith and his dream career as a chef. Friedland makes this distinction evident through Meredith’s internal dialogue, which alternates between a familiar conversational style and one more focused on imagery.

“But that was the very nature of Wesley – exquisite, thrilling,” Friedland writes. “I think of fireworks, explosions so fierce in their beauty, exhilarating and dazzling, but necessarily fleeting, a phenomenon not meant to last but all the more beautiful because of its ephemeral nature. Maybe that was what I had with Wesley, something that was never meant to last.”

Although Friedland’s writing is wonderful and it allows readers to visualize the characters and setting clearly, That’s Not A Thing still leaves something to be desired. Some storylines are left unfinished by the time the book ends, and while it’s possible to end a story while leaving space for further development, the gap seems almost too wide to conquer. Despite this, there are still bright spots in the novel, particularly in Meredith’s flashbacks.

If you’re looking for a read that takes you on a journey through a decade of tumultuous emotions, That’s Not A Thing is just the right book for you.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

That’s Not A Thing was released on April 14, 2020. You can purchase it through Bookshop.

Featured image via Friedland’s website

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Nadia Bey
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Nadia is a student journalist from North Carolina and the current Books Editor for Affinity. In addition to reading, she is interested in science, pop culture and policy.

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