In Leah Stewart's words, "This is not a story about sex or romance, but it is nevertheless a story about love. In college, Annabel was for me the sort of friend every girl has at least once in her life, the one whose sentences you can finish, the one you never go anywhere without. There's always the chance that a man will cheat on you; you realize, especially when you are only twenty, that a love affair might end. But a friendship is supposed to last forever, isn't it?" THE MYTH OF YOU & ME, Stewart's second novel, is an exploration of the boundaries of trust, love and mutual respect within friendship, and the story of what can happen between two supposed soul mates when that delicate balance is broken.
Cameron is 29 and living as a research assistant and caretaker for Oliver Doucet, an aging, renowned historian who is on the verge of dying. Other than Oliver, she has no family to speak of, no significant other, and no real friends. She spends the bulk of her days talking to Oliver, making his meals, and occasionally venturing out into the world for an errand or two, before returning home to start the routine again. She has settled into a tired, lonely existence and feels no real incentive to break out of her self-imposed isolation.
She wasn't always a hermit, however. Growing up, she had a best friend named Sonia with whom she shared everything. Ever since the time when they first laid eyes on each other at 15 after Cameron moved to Clovis, New Mexico, the pair was inseparable and it seemed as though nothing could come between them. "With Sonia, [she] belonged for the first time with a person, instead of pretending to belong to a place. When one of [them] walked into a room alone, 'Where's Sonia?' or 'Where's Cameron?' was the first thing said."
When Sonia's mother screamed at her during one of her many episodic rages, calling her stupid and a slut, Cameron was there to comfort Sonia. When Cameron was ostracized at school, Sonia was immediately at Cameron's defense. Cameron was Sonia's complement and Sonia was Cameron's. After high school, the two went to the same college and were, of course, roommates. They took the same classes, went on many trips together, and throughout all of it, stayed as tight and as connected as ever until the unthinkable occurred --- a betrayal so profound that Cameron cut all ties with Sonia and severed the friendship permanently.
Ten years later, Cameron still has not forgiven Sonia for what happened. When an unexpected letter and invitation to Sonia's wedding arrives out-of-the-blue, Cameron ignores it despite Oliver's advice. But when Oliver passes away and leaves Cameron with instructions to find Sonia and hand-deliver a mysterious package to her, Cameron is left with no choice but to honor his final request. After packing up her belongings, she sets out on what turns out to be a life-changing journey to reconnect with her best friend and, inadvertently, find her true self in the process.
Overall, THE MYTH OF YOU & ME is what you would expect from a novel dedicated solely to exploring a friendship (and its demise) between two women. Stewart spends a lot of time discussing her characters' feelings and deconstructing their intentions, sometimes to the point of excessiveness. At times, Cameron's behavior seems a bit too scripted, her emotions too over-the-top, almost as if she never progressed past a tantrum-throwing 13 or reached that heightened level of maturity that comes with age and experience. Similarly, there are moments throughout the book that seem either too contrived or overly wrapped-up (the ending!) to be believable so that readers feel like they're witnessing scenes out of an overly-dramatized back-to-school special.
That being said, THE MYTH OF YOU & ME mostly accomplishes what it sets out to do and reveals a sentimental look at the resiliency of friendship and the unbreakable bonds that can be formed (and kept) between women.
Reviewed by Alexis Burling on January 12, 2011
The Myth of You & Me