Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Description: Hadley is four minutes late, and she's stranded in Connecticut, waiting for the next flight to London to attend her father's wedding. Hadley is four minutes late, and she meets Oliver. Hadley is four minutes late, and it changes everything.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is the story of what happens during the twenty-four hours after those four minutes, as Hadley and Oliver fly across the Atlantic, getting closer to each other and closer to the things they fear.


I am romantic, through and through. But I don't believe in love at first sight. I wrote a post about it once. To quote myself:

I have a problem with the idea of love at first sight. It's terribly unrealistic, of course, but beyond that I find it terribly unromantic. One of my favourite constructs is friends who fall in love, because they really know each other. They already know everything about each other, and they still love this person. They love everything. But, at first sight, they don't know the person at all. Their love is based on assumptions and appearances. Neither of those things are romantic at all. 

Hence, when I came across this title, I immediately dismissed it. "Who would write a whole book about such a silly concept?"I thought. But then, the blogosphere just loved it and I figured I should give it a try.

I'm glad I did. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a good book. There were a whole ton of things I liked about it, and only one or two things I got stuck on.

I loved how small it was. The entire plot takes place over a twenty-four hour period; nearly the first half takes place on a plane. Most novels wouldn't dare take on such a challenge, for how would the characters grow in such a short time, in such a static setting? But this novel's greatest moments occur because it dares to live up to that challenge. Jennifer E. Smith is so patient with her story; she's willing to take things slow, to revel in the small moments, and that's what makes the novel so real.

Most everyone has been in a plane; most people, multiple times. Smith takes the time to describe a flight in a genuine way, be it the trips to the bathroom, or the time during the overnight flights when all the lights are off, and it feels like everyone's asleep but you. She manages to take this small moments and make them magical, commenting on the reality of cumulus clouds or the relief of the ground. She shows you the extraordinary in the mundane, and it's just beautiful.

I really loved the first half of the book; I was sure it was on its way to becoming a classic. The second half, however, was more uneven for me. I accepted the coincidence of them meeting, the chance of the four minutes. But there are more coincidences are they get off the plane that I didn't quite buy. There's a sort of twist that Hadley realizes; I did think that was quite good. I also rather enjoyed Hadley's relationship with her mother and many of the characters she met in England. I also loved Hadley's relationship with her father.

My parents are currently going through a divorce, and I can attest to the fact that Smith got the emotions of the situation spot on. Like Hadley, I wonder how I will fit into my parents new lives. I genuinely believe that my parents will be happier apart, but I also mourn the loss of our family and our joint memories. Hadley's worries were so close to my own that she often brought me to tears.

The blogosphere told me I'd enjoy this book, and on that point they were right. But they also told me I'd love the romance; I can't say I truly did. I loved Oliver in the first half. But the coincidences and contrivances of their relationship really annoyed me later on. Moreover, I didn't feel like they got a proper ending. I expected their relationship to go deeper. I wanted them to explore each other more, to love each other more. I was disappointed that the ending only gave them a few pages to reconcile. I thought they could have used fifty more. In the first hundred-plus pages, Smith gave Hadley and Oliver such a good base; but in the last fifty pages, she stole their happy ending. The blogosphere told me that this book would change my opinion on the concept of love at first sight. Sadly, it did not.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a lovely book. I think everyone deserves to enjoy it; I just hope they fall for Oliver and Hadley more than I did.


  1. Hi Katherine- great review as always! I am one of those in the great big blogosphere that genuinely liked this book. There were a few issues I had with the plot, but I swept those aside because I just loved the MAGIC of Smith's writing. The romance? Not necessarily but I liked the possibility of love and the wonder of everyday things. I agree I think the ending was rather abrupt- would have wanted more!

  2. Hi Katherine- great review as always.
    I admit I was one of those in the big blogosphere that really liked this book. For me, it wasn't necessarily about Hadley and Oliver's romance, but more about the magic in Smith's writing and the hope in possibilities of love. For various reasons, it just struck this lovely chord with me!

  3. Nice review! Here's mine if you don't mind:

    They're turning this one into a movie. I'm so excited!

    Thanks and have a nice day! :)


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