Jasmine loves two things: her sister and her work. And when her work is taken away she has no idea who she is.
Matt loves two things: his family and the booze. Without them, he hits rock bottom.
One New Year’s Eve, two people’s paths collide. Both have time on their hands both are at a crossroads. But as the year unfolds, through moonlit nights and suburban days, an unlikely friendship slowly starts to blossom.
Ever since I picked up P.S. I Love You a few years ago I’ve been enchanted by the storytelling abilities of Irish author Cecelia Ahern and the touch of magic that runs through her romantic novels. She has had a great run with her recent releases and I particularly loved The Year I Met You, because it is not a contemporary love story or a long lost love saga but rather it is a story of friendship which to my surprise was the sole factor for me to turn the pages, to see if Matt and Jasmine hook up or for once this is something more original.
The Year I Met You focuses on Jasmine; a young and successful business woman. She lives for her work so when she’s fired from her current company and forced to take one year’s gardening leave – meaning she’s still on the payroll and not allowed to work elsewhere which automatically suggests that she can’t join a competitive company straight away – her life spirals out of control. Work is everything to Jasmine as she’s not the kind of person who can just sit still and enjoy a year of holidays and relaxing. It was fine for the first few weeks as it meant she could catch up with friends and family, which was long overdue anyway, but soon she’s twiddling her thumbs as she’s extremely bored out of her mind.
She being a workaholic finds it excruciatingly hard to stay off job. So what she does, she turns into a stalker. Literally all she does in the entire storyline is stare at the house in front of her own, across the road of a guy named Matt, who is a radio jockey and has degraded himself with booze, cigarettes and loud music as well as late night forceful house entries when his wife doesn’t open the door. After he is sacked from his job, he hits an all time low where he finds solace in alcohol in order to forget his wife who left him because of his sketchy behaviour and took their kids with her.
One New Years Eve, their paths cross, despite the odds, and suddenly their agendas have altered. Both have inner demons, and both have fiery tempers. Family issues are also a common thread but in very different ways. Jasmine had to take on the responsibility of her sister, who is suffering from down-syndrome at a young age, where Matt struggles to look after himself, never mind his family. The two rivals become reluctant allies as they struggle to adjust to their new roles in this new year.
At first it is incredibly difficult to understand where first Jasmine and later on Matt were coming from. To them being on gardening leave was the worst thing in the universe and Jasmine in particular came dangerously close to becoming depressed by her situation. In a day and age where everyone is still feeling the hardships of the recent recession and for many it is a blessing to have an actual income, people moaning about not being able to work yet still getting a hefty salary sound hugely ungrateful and without perspective of how much others around them struggle on a monetary level. The difficulty of finding work and getting by on a minimum income is something people of this century know very well and as such it is difficult to sympathise with these characters. They came across like spoiled children, because of which it was hard to identify with them and understand such a pivotal point within the story.
There are wonderful descriptions of garden life throughout this novel and these are cleverly balanced with harsh realities like dependency on alcohol, the need for reassurance and the day to day living with disability. Jasmine’s sister, Heather, has Down’s Syndrome and the author has researched her extremely well , giving us a glimpse of her yearning for independence yet showing the fears her family will always have for her well-being.
Friendship and support is what this book is about, not love. Where other female writers may have taken the reader on the journey of dinner dates, champagne and wonderful love-making scenes, Cecilia Ahern uses her talent to tell us stories of nature, solidarity and change. True, money does not play a part in either Matt or Jasmine’s new lives of leisure, and this rarely is the case, but on the other hand, money is not the issue here. Trust in a person cannot be bought, and honesty can sometimes be cruel but is usually the best policy.