This was my first time reading Taylor Jenkins Reid, who is a very popular author, and I loved it! The premise is a bit preposterous, with a woman’s husband being on an island for three years before eventually swimming to freedom. Like how often does this happen?? Almost never. Regardless, there were discussions had that felt very relatable, even if what caused the situation isn’t.
While I did find it very predictable, I enjoyed it along the way and I loved the messages within the book. I also really liked all of the characters and was rooting for Emma the whole time.
From here on out, there will be spoilers for both the book and the movie!
The book spends quite a bit of time with Emma when she is a teenager. We see how she doesn’t get along with her sister, her working at the bookstore, and her interact with her best friend, Olive. In the book, Sam applies to work at the bookstore and that is how he and Emma get to know each other. Aside from working together, they don’t talk much at school or outside of work. In the movie, they get rid of Olive, which I think was a good call because she didn’t add much to the story, and they instead make Sam her best friend and leave out him working at the bookstore.
In both, Emma had a crush on Jesse who is the popular high school swim jock. In the book there was a bit more too this, but I personally am not a fan of reading about high school romances so I was more than okay with the movie cutting down the high school scenes. But in both, the cops bust a party where teens are drinking, and Emma and Jesse end up running off and they end up getting arrested anyway, but their time in the police station leads to a budding romance.
Being with Jesse
In both, Jesse and Emma move across the country to LA, and while in college and after, they travel the world. Jesse’s parents had dreams of him being in the Olympics but he himself did not want to pursue that. Being with Emma, who loves him no matter what he chooses, he is able to stop living the dreams his parents and others had pressured him into. She also feels pressure by her parents to one day run the bookstore, but Emma has zero interest in ever living in her hometown and she hates reading.
In both, we just see a montage of moments of their time together. We don’t see any problems they had, rather just see how great everything is. I wasn’t too invested in her relationship with Jesse because there didn’t seem to be much depth to it.
Before their anniversary, Jesse is going on a trip to shoot a documentary in Alaska, but the day after he leaves she gets a call saying the helicopter he had been on crashed and he is assumed dead.
After Jesse’s death
After hearing this news, Emma has this phase where she stands on their roof looking out into the ocean, believing Jesse was out there and she wanted to spot him when he makes it back. Her sister eventually comes up and tells her Jesse is dead and she has to move on.
In the movie, her sister suggests she move back home but in the book after a few weeks pass, moving back home is something she decides to do on her own.
While living with her parents, she starts to get into read as an escape from her pain. She also begins to work in the bookstore. In the book, she overheard her parents saying they needed to hire for a new position, and she says she wants to do it. In the movie, we just see she is now working there.
Also in the book, we hear that on their wedding day, when her name was announced with her last name, she had been put off by the sound of her new name. Then, while working at the bookstore a guy asks her name and she says Emma Learner and the guy is like, oh, I had thought the Blaire’s wanted one of their kids to take over. At this point she is running the store and loves it and decides to change her last name back ot Blaire since the bookstore is called Blaire Books.
In the movie this happens with her name change, but we don’t get the details of it quite like we did in the book.
In both, she decides she wants to learn piano and goes to a music store. She runs into Sam, who helps her pick out a keyboard. In both she assumes he works there and, in the movie, he tells her he doesn’t. But in the book, she goes to the cashier and says that Sam is the salesman that helped her and the cashier tells her he doesn’t work there. She then goes back up to him, embarrassed, apologizing for thinking he worked there. From here, he gets her number and they plan to go out.
In the book, she and Sam have this cute banter and she is making jokes and he is laughing. She says how Sam always made her feel like the funniest person and I loved this detail. Having a guy compliment your looks is fine, but when you can make him genuinely laugh, that’s a great feeling!
In the book, before going on her first date with Sam, she writes a letter to Jesse about how she needs to go on with her life. She will never forget him, but she can’ carry the sadness around with her forever.
In the movie, she writes this letter before agreeing to marry Sam. Also, in the movie she meets Sam when Jesse has been dead three years, whereas in the book it had been two years.
After being with Sam for a year, Emma gets a call from Jesse. Turns out he was alive the whole time but had been trapped on an island. This causes some awkwardness between her and Sam and she gets ready to see him.
In both, Jesse’s parents make her feel bad for being engaged and say they don’t want Jesse to know yet.
After initially seeing each other, she then leaves and lets him spend the rest of the day with his family but in the book agrees to see him before work the next day. In the book I was like, why would you keep your normal work schedule?? Are you serious? I would have taken the week off, which is basically what she ends up doing anyway.
But they meet for breakfast the next day and this is when he then asks for them to spend the weekend together in the cabin in Maine where they had their wedding and she agrees.
That previous night, she had gone back home to Sam and she wanted to just have a normal evening, but Sam said he just couldn’t pretend that everything was normal. He says they should call off the wedding and live separately until things with Jesse are figured out. He tells her he will call her when he is ready to talk and asks that she not call him.
In the movie this is similar where he says they should call off the wedding and one should move out.
While driving to the cabin, in both Jesse insists on driving even though he no longer has a license and he drives recklessly which makes Emma nervous. He ends up being pulled over, and Emma drives instead and this whole incident with the cop is how Jesse learns Emma had changed her last name back.
In the book you could feel how hard Jesse was trying to force things to be the way they were, including trying to force himself to be the way her was. Not wanting to acknowledge that not only Emma had changed, but so had he. He basically refused to talk about his time away and wants things to just go back to normal.
In both they get in an argument about how this was supposed to be the easy part for him, the return and being reunited with her. He is also thrown off by her working at the bookstore and wanting to live the rest of her life in her hometown and no longer being interested in traveling. Before he left for Alaska she was already starting to tire of the constant traveling, she just hadn’t said anything yet.
When he thinks he knows her still, in the book she asks him what she does when she is said and when he says drink diet coke and eat pizza, she says I play the piano. This isn’t in the movie, but I thought it was a great moment and a great example f the simple ways people change. Those small simple changes though, can add up to a different person. In the movie she has a tattoo that he is surprised by, but in the book her hair is short and dyed and he doesn’t like it.
He is also hurt by her moving on with her life seemingly quickly. She tells him she never forgot him and wasn’t trying to replace him, but he is having a hard time not seeing it in that way. He says his job was to escape and come home, and her job was just to wait and she couldn’t even do that.
This reminded me of the book and movie Room, where the teenager is kidnapped but eventually escapes like nearly 10 years later. When she gets home, all of her stuff is gone and the mom says that after few years, people told her she had to let go and so she donated a lot of her stuff. It’s tough, because if the person is dead, you do need to move on. But then If the person returns, how heartbroken they must be to see you had moved on. Tough situation for sure.
But in the movie, I don’t know if this was in the book, when Emma is debating on dating Sam, her sister tells her that shutting herself off from the world isn’t proof of how much she loved her husband. I thought this was a great part too, because often when there is a death, people feel like they can’t be happy because then it will be like they don’t care about their loved one. But you can move on and live a happy life and like in this, Jesse memory brings her joy rather than pain after a while. A person who does shut themselves off from the world, doesn’t miss the person more than the person who moves on.
Anyway, after arguing, in both Jesse finds the letter she had written him before saying yes to Sam. He is able to better understand her, even though he still is hurt. But in both, they agree they are no longer meant to be together.
In the movie, while all of this is happening with Emma, we see Jesse dealing with it while at school and eventually breaking down and sharing everything with his students and basically the whole staff. It was all pretty cheesy, but I didn’t hate it. At the end, he says how it’s her choice and he’ll let her secede who she loves more. But a student says how he shouldn’t be passive and wait for her to choose. Jesse fights for Emma and is always clear how much he wants her, if Sam wants her, he needs to make is just as obvious and not be passive. He realizes the student is right, and he rushes to find her. It’s a cheesy scene where Emma is looking for Sam and Sam is looking for Emma, which ends with her hitting him in traffic and they are reunited. Later, Jesse, who lives in LA again, writes Emma saying he has found someone new and how he sees how you can move on and love someone else, while still having a place in your heart for the other person.
The book ends with Emma reaching out to Sam, and they proclaim their love and like tin the movie, down the road she hears from Jesse about how he found someone new after all.
Book vs movie
Honestly, the movie didn’t make any changes that upset me and overall, I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I would watch it again though and while the acting wasn’t bad, I didn’t think the cast had the best chemistry. One thing I liked better about the movie was cutting down on the high school scenes, but even so, I think I will still say the book wins!