As the only girl in my family, I have often wondered what it would have been like growing up with a sister, from the joys of sharing secrets and successes to the exchanging of clothes and make-up. Never did I imagine the type of strained relationship experienced by Josie and Meredith Garland in First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. For two weeks, the pair became my constant companions as I listened to their contentious story unfold on audio CD during my daily commute. I couldn’t help but become invested in the storyline for the Atlanta setting evoked a sense of nostalgia for I called this Southern city my home for nearly a decade.
The Garland sisters are in their late thirties, each in a very different stage in life. Both are deeply affected by the tragic death of their older brother, Daniel, whose anniversary looms near. Meredith is a successful attorney married to her deceased brother’s best friend, Nolan. Raising their four-year-old daughter Harper is a challenge for Meredith for she feels dissatisfied in her work and personal life. Her sister Josie is a school teacher who longs to become a mother. Her unconventional ways often cause strife between the two sisters leading them to bicker over nonsensical issues more times than not. Their fragile relationship is put to the ultimate test when the truth behind Daniel’s fatal accident comes to light.
First Comes Love explores the vulnerability of two sisters who are struggling to move on from a major family crisis. Meredith’s role as the responsible sibling becomes more than she can bear for her marriage, as well as her relationship with her sister, are falling apart. Free-spirited Josie has her own issues as she faces the possibility of becoming a single parent despite reservations from her immediate family and friends. The glue that holds this poignant novel together is the cast of supporting characters, in particular Gabe, Nolan, and Pete. Each man contributes his perspective on the sisters’ splintering relationship which ultimately stems from their reluctance to accept one another for who they truly are. Engrossing, relatable, and at times emotionally charged, First Comes Love is a brutally honest portrayal of a multi-faceted relationship between two loving sisters.