Jen's Reviews > Where You Left Me

Where You Left Me by Jennifer Gardner Trulson
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's review
Nov 18, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: adult-nonfiction-memoir

Like other reviewers I found myself sometimes in disbelief at her wealth and lack of financial worry after Doug's murder. Yes, even recoiling from it a little, even though I liked Jennifer. It's not the typical experience for most of the 9/11 victims' families. It felt tasteless and shallow of her to be so open about her wealth... fancy restaurants, hotels, a Central Park West apartment. However, it is her life, her book, her experience. To self-censor herself would be to compromise the integrity of herself and the book. Jennifer has every right to tell her story as it truly was, and if she had enough money to keep her Hamptons home and re-decorate her Manhattan apartment, so be it. Were the practical aspects of her life no doubt easier by having wealth than for someone who lost a spouse who didn't hold a prestigious position in Cantor Fitzgerald? Of course. However, that doesn't diminish her emotional experience, her grief. That transcends all income brackets.

Doug swept her off her Massachusetts feet and introduced her to the New York City lifestyle. He promised her three things: to "be big", make her "feel good", and "take care of things". Until death, he did those things. I feel like people might think of her as a my-man-will-take-of-me mentality, but keep in mind she earned her J.D. and worked as a lawyer even after meeting Doug (she did become a mom full-time once their children were born). Doug and Jennifer built a home and a life together, and while more traditional in gender roles than what we often see in modern times, it worked very well for them.

Jennifer's book begins when Doug rescues her one snowy evening; it fast-forwards quickly to the day of his murder. She writes about how gone is generally an innocuous word (the carrots are all gone because the toddler ate them) until it isn't. Until it's the gut-wrenching tragedy of your husband dying in the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil. Jennifer's story captivated me; her honesty made the book impossible to put down.

Jennifer meets Derek Trulson on a chance encounter, and she articulates her role strain between being Doug's wife and Derek's girlfriend. She struggles in this period, obviously, but also relishes the in-between phase. If she has not chosen Derek as a serious partner, then she has not rejected Doug. She struggles with feeling like Doug's wife even while dating Derek. We also meet Doug's family and friends as they experience Derek fulfilling Doug's role. All people, including Jennifer, feel ambivalence at some point about her new love.

Especially unique is her children's relationships with Derek. To Michael, Doug is his father. Derek will never be "Daddy". To his younger sister Julia(too young at Doug's death to have any memories of him), "Daddy" has been the word for what she sees that she doesn't have in relation to her friends with fathers, and Derek truly becomes her Daddy. We see Michael's realization and integration of his reality with his sister's.

The last chapter of the book is devoted to Derek and Jennifer's wedding (the perennial bachelor's first). It's a beautiful, emotional day between the three merging families (Doug's dad jokingly refers to Derek as his "son-in-law") that honors Doug as the fifth member of their immediate family.

Four words to capture this book: open, captivating, intriguing, emotional. Jennifer has been loved by two amazing men, and she knows this. I wish Jennifer, Derek, Julia, and Michael long and happy lives as a family.
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03/26/2016 marked as: read

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