There is so much that I liked about They’re Going to Love You. For one, the prose is lovely: Meg Howrey writes beautifully and with such love about ballet and dance in general, the motifs and images she threads throughout her novel lucid and striking. I also loved the way she crafted Carlisle’s relationship with her father and his partner, James; you feel keenly how much Carlisle loves them, how desperately she wants to be closer to them, to be drawn into their family. Howrey depicts these characters with real sympathy and understanding, and this carries over more broadly to all the other characters in her novel, even the ones who may, at first glance, seem marginal or antagonistic to Carlisle. Through small, tender moments that nevertheless feel significant, she’s able to cultivate a sense of the wholeness of these characters, of the richness of their lives, even if they don’t actually get a lot of time on the page. (I’m thinking here, especially, of the way Howrey writes Carlisle’s relationship with her mother.)
“Balanchine famously said there are no mothers-in-law in ballet. Meaning, it’s not an art form suited for portraying complicated family relationships, or psychological subtleties. It’s a place to get away from them, into a purer realm.
Dance is very good on romantic love. Love is one of its best, easiest, most beautiful and wonderful expressions. The dive, the swoop, the swoon. (Dance is also excellent for anger, pride, and sorrow.)
I love better in my work than I do anywhere else.”
And yet–I just wanted more. They’re Going to Love You was, to me, a good novel that could’ve been so much better. The foundation is there–the characters, their dynamics, the writing–but it needed fleshing out. Part of why the story felt a little underdeveloped to me is the pacing: as a narrative, They’re Going to Love You moves both too slowly and too quickly. We spend a lot of time on things that we shouldn’t–especially in the beginning, where we focus on Carlisle and her work in the present timeline–and not enough time on the things that we should–namely, the dynamics between Carlisle, her father, and James. That dynamic between those three is the linchpin of the entire novel, and yet I never really felt like its heft and significance was dwelt on enough or written with enough detail.
The other thing is that it just takes too long to get to the thrust of the story: the central conflict that severs Carlisle’s ties to James and her father to such an extent that it leaves her completely estranged from them for over twenty years. Because that conflict unfolds so late into the story, the rest of the narrative is then forced to rush to get to where it needs to go. When we get to the last part of the novel, then, the present timeline where Carlisle reconnects with James and her father, who is now dying, the emotional beats just don’t hit as hard as they should. And it’s such a shame, because I really was invested–I cared about these characters and was moved by them, but I finished the novel feeling a little dazed, like I’d just watched a great movie, but at 2x speed.
In my notes on this novel, I wrote down “good bones but needs more meat”–and that’s pretty much the crux of my feelings on They’re Going to Love You.
Thanks so much to Doubelday Books for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!