Although Miranda would never consider Adam to be the “love of her life,” beyond a doubt, he was the “love of her youth.” Adam, in his turn, feels the same way about Miranda. In what was the first serious experience with love for both of them, Miranda and Adam fell madly in love in the mid-1960s when both were 16-year-old high school students. They seemed destined to spend the rest of their lives together until Adam made one terrible mistake – a mistake he has felt guilty about for more than thirty years, a betrayal of her trust so terrible that Miranda has never gotten over it.
When, in late 2007, the two of them, now not having spoken for three decades, find themselves in Rome at the same time, each rather reluctantly agrees to a brief reunion there. Adam hopes to find that what he did to Miranda did not destroy her, that she is healthy and happy with the life she created for herself after the shock of his betrayal – most importantly, that an apology from him is not something she needs to hear. Miranda, who takes pride in her personal courage, decides to meet with Adam because she feels that a woman her age should not have anyone in her life that she feels incapable of facing.
Thus begins a series of long walks around the city during which Miranda and Adam have long philosophical conversations about everything but what tore them apart in their early twenties. Both are as reluctant to confront that horrible memory directly as they are to discuss any details or feelings about their families. The more the pair talks during their exploratory walks around Rome, the more the reader begins to wonder whether their relationship was doomed even before Adam’s fatal error – whatever that error may have been.
By alternating flashbacks to the 1960s with scenes from the present, Gordon emphasizes how little Miranda and Adam have changed. As a young man, Adam was focused exclusively on a future as a successful concert pianist; he demanded that his girlfriend (and any future wife) dedicate her life to helping make his dream come true. In Adam’s mind, Miranda’s dreams and ambitions were secondary to his, if they were to be considered at all. The young Miranda, however, believed she could change the world, and she was willing to place herself in danger in order to do so. What she was not willing to do was to view her ambitions as less important than Adam’s.
The Love of My Youth builds slowly, steadily increasing the reader’s curiosity about what really happened, what terrible thing Adam did to destroy the relationship forever. Gordon adds layer after detailed layer to the characters Miranda and Adam until they become very real, if flawed, people. Gordon has, in fact, achieved the difficult task of making this reader care about her two main characters without liking either one of them. Fans of previous Mary Gordon novels are likely to enjoy this one.
Rated at: 4.0
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)