On a festive New Year’s night in 1999, Hanna Vincent, a seventeen-year-old British girl, is corralled into helping her caterer mother at a swanky London party. Her hair battling its natural color versus a deep red, Hanna gamely serves up hors d’oeuvres. The couple throwing the party are kind and welcoming, but what intrigues Hanna most is Mr. Larsen’s American son, Richard. He’s twenty-one and preparing to finish up school at Columbia. He’s also wildly wealthy and sartorially conservative.
The two quickly bond, sharing some secret laughs with Richard’s half sister Ruby, a precocious ten-year-old. Richard and Hanna’s friendship continues as they keep in touch. Once or twice a year, we get to see what’s happening in their lives. Budding music columnist Hanna covers up and coming bands, while Richard’s dreams of starting his own Facebook-esque business are derailed by a tragedy.
Over the thirteen years covered in the book, Hanna and Richard’s relationship goes through a myriad of changes. Friends to lovers to strained acquaintances. We know, perhaps before they do, that they need to be together. But first they have to grow up and face their shortcomings.
Both characters are from broken homes, and each has one parents in London and the other in New York. Richard’s familial duty costs him his personal dreams, whereas Hanna’s sense of not being cherished by both her parents causes great harm to her relationships.
If this sounds like David Nicholls’ One Day, you wouldn’t be too far off. You watch a couple be apart, come together, get separated, and attempt to navigate their way to each other. One Day, though, feels more literary. Fix You is just fun and entertaining. And sad. I admit to crying more than once.
Hanna and Richard are interesting and likable. Hanna will annoy you at times with her idea of what comprises the right thing to do, but you never doubt that she truly believes she is doing what’s best. Richard, too, does what’s best, and you’ll find yourself wishing he would be more … selfish. He’s a good man. How he turns out this way with his viper of a mother is a head scratcher, but Richard is a good man. He’s a good son, a good brother, a good businessman, a good boyfriend. He’s good. Hanna, too, is good, but she’s the more flawed of the two. She’s the one who has more growing up to do.
Within those thirteen years comes 9/11. It is difficult to approach that horror in a way that doesn’t feel gratuitous or redundant, but Carrie Elks does a solid job. She relates the fear, sadness, and shock, and she doesn’t use it to make us sad. It’s a real moment in the lives of the New York-based characters.
The romance is sweet without being icky or in danger of inducing a diabetic coma. Richard and Hanna’s love is hard fought, and you cheer them on to find it. There is some headboard rockin’, but it is not graphic in the least. In fact, I kind of wish there had been more detail, mostly because I’d like to know more about Richard between the sheets.
This is a fun romance novel with good characters.