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BookBrowse Reviews They're Going to Love You by Meg Howrey

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They're Going to Love You

A Novel

by Meg Howrey

They're Going to Love You by Meg Howrey X
They're Going to Love You by Meg Howrey
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2022, 288 pages

    Paperback:
    Sep 2023, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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Set in the world of professional ballet at the time of the AIDS crisis, this is an emotionally complex look at family, belonging, loss, memory and forgiveness.

Teenage Carlisle lives with her mother in Ohio, but their relationship has never felt particularly close. Though her mother shares her passion for dance, Carlisle longs to spend more time with her father, Robert, and his partner, James. Charming and enigmatic, both are former dancers themselves, immersed in the vibrant art and culture scene of 1980s New York. Their lifestyle seems irresistibly sophisticated and alluring to Carlisle. And so, seeking the sense of belonging that has always evaded her, she aims to enmesh herself in their lives across a series of adolescent visits by proving herself worthy of their adoration. But over the years, cracks begin to show in Robert and James' seemingly idyllic relationship. Lies are told and romantic betrayals take place. Decisions made by both men and Carlisle will have profound and devastating ripple effects throughout the rest of their lives. Years later, now working as a choreographer, Carlisle receives a phone call from James that will force her to confront their shared history and the scars it has left.

Author Meg Howrey has a background as a professional ballet dancer, and her knowledge and passion for the art form are clear throughout the novel. But rather than alienate readers without prior knowledge of the intricacies of the dance world, her expertise serves to draw us in, painting a vibrant portrait of how competitive, exhilarating and all-consuming it can be. By using this as a backdrop and keeping her very flawed and emotionally complex characters at the core of the narrative, even those with no interest in dance will be able to engage with their struggles.

The characters themselves are beautifully drawn. As the timeline shifts back and forth between Carlisle's adolescence and adulthood (giving equal focus to both), truths are gradually revealed. These provide further context and reveal the motivations of each character, making them feel all the more layered and believable. Through these portrayals, Howrey effectively demonstrates how complicated love can be, and how it's often those we love most that we cause the most harm.

As gay men, Robert and James are impacted greatly by the emergence of the AIDS crisis. But while the topic is handled with due sensitivity and realism, the characters never feel defined by their sexuality alone, nor does their story become one of typical gay tragedy. Carlisle's complete acceptance of her father's sexuality and her love for his partner from the beginning are refreshing to read. The fact that they are gay is part of this family's story, but their triumphs and struggles transcend it to become much more universal — a balance that Howrey strikes well.

By framing the narrative so that Carlisle is looking back on her youth years later, Howrey looks carefully at the role of memory: how it endures, how it shifts and how it shapes who we become. This lends They're Going to Love You an even greater air of poignancy and nostalgia. Understated yet gripping, this emotionally intense novel is ultimately about the lasting ties of family and the importance of learning how to forgive — both others and ourselves.

Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in November 2022, and has been updated for the September 2023 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Stravinsky's The Firebird

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