There is a joke that I read some time ago that irritated me to no end. In it, a store that offers free husbands offers women the option to choose a husband from one of six floors. To make a long joke short, women are so hard to please that despite the amazing options available to them on floors one through five, they end up on floor number six, where they are greeted with a sign informing them that there are no men on that floor, which exists as proof that women are impossible to please.
Sarina Mahler, the main protagonist in The One That Got Away, reminds me of the women portrayed by this joke. She has a growing architecture practice in Austin and a loving, successful boyfriend of four years, Noah, from whom she expects a proposal any day now. In short, Sarina is on her way to starting the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death a decade earlier. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and former flame Eamon back in town, Sarina’s carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. When tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life—and in love.
The book is really well written. Author Bethany Chase created a vivid world inhabited by a lovable set of characters. Furthermore, Chase shares, through her main protagonist, the world of an architect without making the story feel wooden or weighing down the plot. Rather, she is one of those authors whose talent make descriptions of something technical like architecture come to life in a magical way. I also liked the exploration of the concept of what makes a relationship. It is after all a very important question that many struggle to find an answer to, single or not.
Long-time readers of my reviews know that I prefer books without explicit content, and so it will come as no surprise that I skimmed over the sex scenes, both those that actually culminated into, erm, the final act, and those that didn’t. Long-time readers of my reviews also know that I that even if protagonists make life choices I don’t agree with, I can still connect quite powerfully with the story at hand. And I really liked Sarina.
But there are some limits to my understanding. Cheating on one’s boyfriend, as Sarina did, is something I have a lot of difficult with. And even worse was Eamon, a man who blatantly stepped into his former flame’s life and actively set out to break her apart from her boyfriend. Is this really someone who can be trusted? I was disappointed that an intelligent woman like Sarina ended up with him.
As for Sarina’s reasons for cheating on Noah with Eamon, well, they seemed as insipid as those a spoiled child gives for wanting yet another new toy. I can’t help but think about how many amazing relationships are broken up because of a “lack in chemistry”, this elusive, mysterious phenomenon study after study has shown is not meant to last past the initial stages of a relationship. Perhaps this is part of the reason why there are so many broken hearts littering North America in the first place.
Would Sarina have stayed with Noah and married him had Eamon come into her life? Probably. Would she have been happy? Probably not, but only because she had a bad habit of not sharing how she feels. There is immaturity in the way Sarina deals with Noah, but instead of delving into it like mature adults that she supposedly is, she breaks it off with Noah to go with the more electric Eamon. How much faith can we put into that relationship? I couldn’t even believe in a happily ever after when I finished the book.
After all, there is always going to be something not good about any relationship. No relationship is perfect, and all new relationships have that special spark that disappears after a while. But the solution isn’t to jump from an old, stale relationship to a new one; rather it is to build on the relationship making it stronger and better.
I have a feeling that this is not what Chase wanted to convey in her book, but this is how it came off. I have a feeling that she wanted to convey a story about two soul mates meeting and making it against the odds. Had Eamon been respectful of Sarina’s relationship with Noah, and Sarina and Noah coming to a mutual understanding that perhaps their relationship isn’t as rosy as they would think it to be, The One That Got Away would have been a beautiful story rather than a disturbing account of one man’s successful attempt at breaking apart a couple. It’s almost offensive to strong relationships everywhere.