The Book that Changed How I See Relationships

Let’s talk about, ‘All Your Perfects’, the book that will stay with me forever.


Sometimes, we read books that end up changing us as people — how we think, feel or even behave. They impact the way we view the world around us and our relationships. These are the books that, in all the ways that count, matter and the ones you can’t stop thinking about.

It’s almost a blessing to stumble across these stories and to read those words that will inevitably change you.


Synopsis from Goodreads

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage.

The memories, mistakes, and secrets they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?


All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover was gifted to me on my birthday, and I read and finished it in two days, crying my eyes out after turning the last page. It was devastating and heartbreaking and unapologetic in its rawest truths, meaningful in ways I can’t even begin to explain.

When I first started reading it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Still, it hit me like a trainwreck, left in the aftermath of love tinged with imperfections, mistakes and every beautiful, aching thing intertwined with promises of loving and being loved. The fundamental aspects of relationships are explored in Hoover’s novel, forcing you to wonder whether any relationship is as ‘perfect’ as they appear to be.


Initial thoughts

The blossoming of new relationships is easy, easy to fall into with your eyes closed and giving into the fairytale ideologies instilled in us from a young age: of the happily-ever-after being when you get your __ charming, but never anything after. We don’t realise, at first, how difficult relationships can be, because sometimes love isn’t enough to keep it afloat, to keep it from submerging in the inky blackness of the seas, because we don’t see, at first, that to keep a relationship going, to keep it alive, you need to water it with trust, loyalty, communication.

You need to make a choice and choose to stay, choose to fight, choose them again and again and again; choose to love them, all the different people they become as the year’s progress, and they grow.

Promises are easy to make and hard to keep.

This book, more than any other I’ve read (other than maybe A Court of Mist and Fury — but that’s for another time), touched my soul and showed me the uglier, darker sides of loving and relationships.

Image provided by the author

How the characters made me feel

I thought this book would only be about a struggling relationship, without expecting the before and afters, the timelines merging into the now — I didn’t expect it to tug and pull on my heart, making me feel every emotion, and feel it so tangibly — I ached for Quinn and Graham.


It goes so beyond what we expect, and artfully illustrates the devastation of grief, depression, and the feeling of failure. I felt Quinn’s every emotion, heard her every thought as if it were my own, and was transported into this world Hoover created, and felt every heartbreak rippling through the words, understanding the terror eclipsing everything else — of wanting something so bad, hoping against hope, but never being able to have it.

“Sometimes I look at him and feel such an overwhelming appreciation for him, I almost want to write thank-you notes to our exes.”

The avoidance in Quinn and Graham’s relationship was hard to read, wishing they would sort their messes out, but it’s never easy. It’s not easy to sit down with your person and talk, to tell them every thought going through your head, every feeling gripping your heart and soul, tearing away at you until it feels like that’s all you’ve become.

Even within the avoidance, the love these two characters felt for each other stood out powerfully, a stark contrast to everything unfolding and unravelling. The issues they were dealing with are typically avoided in usual contemporary romances, and I love that Hoover explored it, with sensitivity and understanding.

I felt myself relating to Quinn, feeling her very fears as my own — whilst, unlike her, I don’t have endometriosis, I do have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. To read about a character struggling with the effects of infertility felt almost comforting — almost as if I could see myself in a book about a romance where you’d expect to be happy — full of pastel pinks and lilacs, and where every word glitters.

The sense of hope ripples through the novel, in not just Quinn, but both her and Graham and the entirety of their relationship, one so exhausting and heavy. Every relationship has its struggles, and one that unfolded in All Your Perfects shocked me.

You say that like marriage is a Category 5 hurricane.”
“Not all the time. But I definitely think there are Category 5 moments in every marriage.”

It made me stop and think. The book didn’t offer any excuses and allowed the characters to understand where blame needed to be placed, but it made me wonder — what happens when things like this really happen? What would I have done, in Quinn’s situation? Would I have chosen the same?


On love and relationships

Love is beautiful and magical and fills you with so much light, but relationships are never always the same — they can be filled with moments of ugliness, hurt, and anger. Hence, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Marriage is hard, we all know that, so why did reading this book scare the hell out of me?

I realised, more than ever, to choose to talk, to listen, to understand. Put yourself in their shoes never rings truer than when you’re with someone; to think about it from their perspective. You have to choose to stay and to choose them, even when it gets hard and you feel like you’re falling apart. Unless, you know, they treat you like crap and don’t respect you.

“The problem is, love and happiness are not concordant. One can exist without the other.”

But this book. God, this book. It spoke about so much more than just how hard relationships can be, It explores society’s expectations of women and the impact of depression on behaviour, intimacy, and libido. I can’t recommend All Your Perfects enough, but read it with caution: the depression and mental health issues aren’t explicitly stated, but carefully woven into the story’s seams. It’s touched on, but barely. It’s hard to read and is heartbreaking and has changed me.

“It’s funny how you can be so happy with someone and love them so much, it creates an underlying sense of fear in you that you never knew before them. The fear of losing them. The fear of them getting hurt. I imagine that’s what it’s like when you have children. It’s probably the most incredible kind of love you’ll ever know, but it’s also the most terrifying.”


Conclusion

The impact of this book is one that will live on forever, with lessons of change and forgiveness shaped from words into the reader’s heart. Dealing with such hard-hitting, heavy experiences is difficult for anyone, and can often be a catalyst for the end of a relationship.

Quinn and Graham tried to weather the storm; this story was about the effects on their relationship, one that started off with love and magic and turned into something resembling the wake of a war just ended. It’s a story of forgiving and reaffirming promises, of trying, even in the face of heartbreak. It’s a story of listening and understanding, of learning to communicate your fears. It’s a story about the heartbreak of loss and the power of love and friendship.


Please note, this was initially published on January 3, 2021 at Medium.com

Published by Sumaiya Ahmed

Sumaiya Ahmed is a freelance journalist and writer, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture, and bringing marginalised topics to light.

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