It seems that stories of people, whether they be friends or lovers, who surprisingly vanish only to resurface years later and turn the lives of everyone upside down, is the preferred topic for fiction writers this year. M. Elizabeth Lee, in her first novel, Love Her Madly brings such tried tribulations to the table with the story of Cyn and Glo, two young women who meet in their first year of college and establish an unlikely friendship.
Glo has transferred from a smaller college to a larger university in Florida, aptly called “Big U” in an attempt to put a recent heartbreak behind. There she meets Cyn, an outspoken and unabashed blonde who introduces Glo to the world of drugs and alcohol while offering a seemingly unconditional friendship, something that Glo has never had.
Unfortunately, and in a rather sad lapse into a repetitive cliché, their friendship is tested when they both fall for Raj, an attractive new student who cannot choose between Glo and Cyn. In Cyn’s eyes, the solution is simple: she and Glo will share Raj equally in lieu of either of them wanting to give him up. Most of all, they believe that this somewhat surreal sharing system, will keep their friendship intact.
While the premise may be far-fetched it could have worked under the scope of exploring a disturbing and atypical love triangle. However, Lee throws too many elements into an already overcrowded mix. Cyn’s dangerous and reckless affair with drugs and a reckless lifestyle which inevitably leads both friends to an ill-fated destination from which apparently, only one of them comes out alive.
But not really, as it turns out. Seven years after Cyn’s disappearance and when Glo has finally made a life with the coveted Raj by her side, she begins to see glimpses of a woman who looks just like Cyn. On the bus, at a bar, and at the theater that Raj now owns. Here is when Lee introduces the unexpected wild card and the exhausted soap opera element of the presumed dead not being really dead.
More than wondering about the reasons Cyn could have for faking her death and why did she wait seven years to resurface, at this point in the novel the reader will already be overwhelmed by the sheer lameness of Raj and Glo and their whole sham of a relationship. A relationship that Lee tries her best to convince us is true love, but only manages to ascertain that these two people have done nothing but lie to each other from the beginning for their own selfish reasons.
This novel could have been as complex as Anton Disclafani’s The After Party or Taylor Jenkin Reid’s One True Loves, which also explore the complexities of friendship, fidelity, and love under the scope of a tragic or self-imposed disappearance. Sadly, Love Her Madly doesn’t make the cut and just comes off as a tentatively cheesy daytime drama, with the added bonus of an equally disappointing and absurd ending.
Author’s note: This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy provided by Netgalley and the publisher. The release date for this book is August 16, 2016.