Together by Julie Cohen is one of the prettiest covers I’ve ever seen and the story inside is just as beautiful. A love story told in reverse from end to beginning, rather than the other way round, we are introduced to Emily and Robbie in Maine in 2016 and taken back in time to when they first met in Cambridge in 1962.
In the beginning (but it’s actually the end!) Emily and Robbie have been together for 54 years but they aren’t married. Suffering, from Alzheimer’s, Robbie wakes up one morning and makes a decision that will break Emily’s heart. Anyone who’s been affected by Alzheimer’s will find Robbie’s struggle with the illness and his coming to terms with it difficult to read but it’s worth pursuing and the story soon moves on.
From the outset we are told that Emily and Robbie are hiding a secret and it is gradually revealed as we learn more about their past, from Emily’s estrangement from her family and the complications surrounding their relationship with their oldest son William in the 1990’s to the birth of their youngest son Adam in the 1970’s, right up until their paths first crossed in 1962.
You might think that telling the story backwards would make it difficult to follow but Julie Cohen’s writing is so flawless that the narrative flows seamlessly. Emily and Robbie are well-developed characters and you can’t help but fall in love with them despite their faults and the mistakes they make. A story of love against the odds and one filled with hardship, you’re kept guessing why they’ve had to sacrifice so much to be together.
I certainly didn’t see the ending coming but once their secret is revealed, the puzzle pieces come together and everything makes sense. I don’t want to give too much away but the ending made me feel slightly uncomfortable, almost betrayed in a way for being so invested in Emily and Robbie’s love story, only to view it in a totally different way when their long hidden secret is revealed. That said the best books leave you thinking about them for hours afterwards and Together most definitely did.
Captivating, thought-provoking and slightly controversial, Together by Julie Cohen is a love story with a difference. Book-ended by moments of shock and sadness, Julie Cohen has cleverly crafted a story that you realize could only be told backwards once the secret is revealed. It’s refreshing to read a love story that leaves you with mixed feelings, questioning how you feel about two characters who’ve stolen your heart.