“There is no doubt in my mind that Graham and I used to be perfect for each other. But just because we used to be perfect for each other doesn’t mean we’re perfect together now. We’re far from it.”
Author: Colleen Hoover
Title: All Your Perfects
Date of Publication: 2018
I belive it was Tolstoy who said, in connection to his Anna Karenina, that the true story begins only after the wedding. For this very reason, I have always been irritated by exaggeratedly romantic narrations about love: the couple doesn’t fit, they argue, they make up, but eventually they always reach their happy end – they get together, get engaged or married. And who cares what hardships may taint their relationship afterwards, right? We as readers can only imagine. Such a fake happy ending may satisfy our primal longing for security and bliss, but it won’t give us true contentment for it quite often lacks logic and depth.
Colleen Hoover’s novel is based on a different structure. She might be the queen of romantic literature, but she aims for more than a sugar-coated Hollywood success story of all-conquering love. All Your Perfects is not the endless succession of the badly choreographed dance steps of two suffering lovers but the story of a true tragedy. A tragedy that is a silent and painful inner burning, the slow perishing of the soul.
The two protagonists, Quinn and Graham, meet in front of a door. Behind that door the fiancé of the former and the girlfriend of the latter are very much engaged in getting to know each other, in the biblical sense. Such a beginning may not carry the promise of a blooming relationship, and one could be sceptical about the future Quinn and Graham might have together, but they are so lovely a couple, that these considerations can be easily forgotten. Although the story of their getting together doesn’t lack romance, and even clichés make an appearance, both of the main characters have depth, a personality and a background: they have a past and a future.
“If God doesn’t give babies to people who aren’t ready for them, He’s got a lot of explaining to do. Because some of the mothers He chose to be fertile are very questionable.”
The narration has two time frames: there are chapters with flashbacks from the time Quinn and Graham meet and fall in love, and others with scenes from the present. The latter chapters provide the depth of the novel. The characters are not twinkling-eyed youths anymore, they have grown tired, bitter and desperate. Their love for each other hasn’t died, but they’ve stopped communicating because some things are just too painful to talk about. So they choose silence and are slowly drowning in it. Colleen Hoover handles (again) a very sensitive question: the issues of the couple are caused mainly by Quinn’s infertility, and this might make the novel a tormenting read for those who’s been though similar suffering.
The writing is highly intense due to Quinn being the narrator herself: we are in a direct connection with her thoughts and feelings. Although I am personally not a fan of first person storytelling, it’s definitely the best choice in this case. Such a narration can convey the transformation of intimacy into a trigger of pain, and it allows us to be touched by the agonies behind the couple’s growing distance from each other.
“If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim.”
Having spoken of the hardest part of the book, it is advisable to mention the aspect that brings the promise of happiness. I don’t mean the faithless feeling of false hope – there is something more essential we can learn from the story, and it doesn’t matter whether we call it faith, optimism or instinct to survive. I have experienced that life is not just joy and laughter, and sometimes we are faced with troubles that seem to consume and destroy us. Yet, in every situation there is at least a tiny bit of hope for us: something we can learn, something that can make us feel contented or glad even amidst the daily tragedies. Colleen Hoover’s book doesn’t reek of cheap, commercial optimism; it doesn’t tell us that we are not entitled to feel pain. It only shows that some things are beyond our control, and instead of waging a hopeless war against them, we can concentrate on the things that bring us happiness and fill us with satisfaction.
“I can spend my life focusing on the perfect version of the life I’ll never have or I can spend my time enjoying the life I do have.”
All Your Perfects is a modern tale of suffering. It is no Dostoevsky, the plot and the writing lack that kind of superior excellence, yet in its own genre, it is a first-rate piece of art. I was greatly moved by the story and I think that that is what every author would like to achieve with their work: to awaken emotions in the readers and touch their souls. In that endeavour, Colleen Hoover has succeeded.
What is your stance on happy endings?
Have you read this novel? Are you familiar with the author?