Every once in a while a truly great book comes across your path that gets inside your heart and head rendering you speechless upon completion. One Day by David Nicholls did exactly that for me. Upon completion I just sat on my couch staring into space. My husband Todd said, “Well? How was it?” I turned to face him, with tears streaming down my face, responding with, “I have no words.” It’s taken my almost a month after finishing this novel to try to put together some coherent thoughts on why this book was one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read.
The day is July 15th, 1988. Dexter (Dex) Mayhew and Emma (Em) Morley are both at a crossroads in their lives. They meet each other for the first time as they are both graduating from university (or college, as we in the states put it). With their lives spread wide before them, they are eager to leave school and tackle the world. However, they can’t seem to get each other out of their minds. What began as a day of graduation and ended with a night of something very different (i.e. sex). Em and Dex’s paths are thrown together for one day, only to diverge again over the coming years. We follow them in a unique way: only viewing their lives on this one day, July 15th, as their lives progress through the years. These quick snapshots of their lives give us just enough information to piece together how their lives are taking shape, and subtle clues in each chapter (i.e. July 15th in a different year) guide us as we move to create an overall picture of what their lives have become. Their journey through the years is erratic and twisting, and the ending is the biggest shock of them all.
When I first understood the concept of the book (the story being told as snapshots, the same day every year) I thought it would be difficult to follow. How are you supposed to know what went on during the other 364 days of the year?!?! My concerns were completely unnecessary, as Nicholls weaves Dex and Emma’s stories seamlessly. I really enjoyed how a piece of information that gets dropped in one year (chapter) might mean nothing, yet it turns into something huge a few years (chapters) later. The order and way things are told makes you feel like you’re piecing together a huge puzzle, unsure of what it’ll look like in the end.
I’m not even sure what to say about the main characters. Dex and Em are both incredibly complex characters, filled with lots of self-doubt about certain parts of their personalities that only the other can soothe and calm. Dex and Em are so REAL. They are dealing with the same emotional problems that people all over the world can understand: unrequited love, drug problems, self-doubt about being a parent, self-doubt about one’s career choice, etc. They’re entirely relatable, making the events of the story that much more gripping.
One of the other things I really enjoyed was how even the minor characters played small but interesting roles in the book. For example, Dex leaves a book with a letter to Emma in it at a nightclub. A woman finds the book, hoping to find it’s owner, but never does. Nicholls gives us a little narrative about the woman and how the book is still sitting on a bookshelf in her home, and that she hopes this Dex found his Emma. It’s wonderful little touches like this all throughout the book that make the story that much more special.
This book was honestly one of the best I’ve read in a LONG time. I love when you find a book that literally just gets inside your heart and head and forces you to become invested in the story as if it were your own. One Day did that with me. It’s not often a book comes along that does that to me but when it does, boy do I react. I was SOBBING for the last 100 pages. NO JOKE. This book hit a cord within me and I was literally just overcome with the entire thing. Is this book sad? Yes. Is this book heartbreaking? Yes. Is it worth every tear, laughter, smile, and frown? 100% yes.
7 out of 5 Stars
This is my twentieth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2010)
Paperback 437 pages