Rating: 4 1/2 stars
In “The Look of Love,” Sarah Jio takes a hard look at love and all its permutations. Innocent love, unrequited love, shared love, platonic love, and passionate fiery love. Which love is best? There is no conclusion; rather, Jio seems to be saying that we all choose the kind of love we end up with.
In the story, Jane finds out that she has been gifted with the ability to “see” love. That means that when she sees love, her vision gets cloudy, she gets a headache, and sometimes she even faints. The doctors find a small tumor which they believe is causing the phenomenon. Jane prefers to believe the French woman who explained to her on her 29th birthday that she must identify the six different types of love before she turns 30 or risk never finding love in her own life.
Jane is a florist — she owns the shop that her grandmother started, which then was her mother’s. Her mother died when Jane was 18, and she still misses her horribly. One slightly disconcerting inclusion by Jio is Jane’s recollection about the day her father left her mother. Her mother’s response to Jane’s childish attempt to help was cruel — yet Jane obviously adores her mother in the rest of the book. Since that’s the only real interaction the reader gets between Jane and her mother, it feels a bit strange.
The story is artfully told from many points of view. Jane tells her story in first person. The stories of her friends are told in third person narrative: Mary, the hairdresser who is married to a musician; Lo, who is head over heels in love with a married man; Katie, who married her soulmate Josh; Jane’s brother Flynn, who falls in love with a woman he sees through his living room window day after day; and Mel, the guy who owns the newspaper stand and falls for the classy Englishwoman who looks down on him.
And then there’s Jane, who meets and falls for a science writer who may not believe in love or her gift.
Jio is brilliant at using the setting to advantage, and readers will want to visit Seattle if just to see Pike’s Market and all the fabulous places Jane and her friends visit. The descriptions of the salty smell of the water and the aroma of cakes baking in the bakery next door make the places come alive. And be prepared to suddenly crave flowers — lots of beautiful bouquets.
Jio’s fans will really love this new story that is all about love, and those who are new to Jio will fall in love with her many characters and her charming storytelling.
Please note: This review is based on the advance readers copy provided by the publisher, Plume, for review purposes.