I just finished listening to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid on audiobook. I’ve been traveling through her story for the past week and a half while driving and am finally done. I absolutely loved this book, even the embarrassing moment when my husband was in the car with me as a sex scene came on.
I loved this story so much more than I ever expected to — I rarely read romance and have very low expectations when it comes to anything whose title includes the words “Seven Husbands.” But I tried it on a friend’s recommendation (thanks, Mei Ling!) and cannot believe how much I loved it.
Without spoiling too much, I’ll summarize it as a story about a movie star — Evelyn Hugo — whose career started in Hollywood in the 1950s and whose fame and love life were legendary.
Her story moved me to tears numerous times: in heartbreak, loss, and the achingly tragic decision to keep her sexuality a secret. Having only recently learned that I, myself, am bi- or pansexual, I haven’t read, watched, or learned much about LGBTQ+ history. I love Grace & Frankie, RENT, and Kinky Boots, but beyond these glimpses into what life was like for queer people in decades past, I haven’t much considered how hard and absolutely unkind society was to those who were different, mostly because I’ve been too caught up in how society still discriminates against queer people.
This story, then, was the first time I fell in love with characters whose full queerness had to be stifled. And the best part of the book is that it is first and foremost a love story, as well as a story about friendship and family. The fact that some of the characters are queer is secondary to the main plot and overall importance of the story. And I love the book for that reason so much. Normalizing queerness is so important. The “point” of this novel isn’t to wave a rainbow flag (although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course); it’s to simply be a good book.
My biggest takeaway from this book is to value my fucking time. I already live, or strive to anyway, with wild abandon, aware of how precious every moment and day is. But this book reminded me that love, passion, and pleasure are absolutely the most important things I live for. Of course changing the world and shaping politics and caring about others and the planet and being a good role model and having fun and and and… are all important too. They’re what gives my life meaning. They’re what connects me to my community. But if I were given only a day or two to live, I would want to spend every single fucking moment with my husband.
I happen to be one of the lucky ones; we’re almost six years in, and we love each other more than ever. Like, we loooooove each other. We’re hot for each other, and we’re proud of it. We spend so much time together every day and never get sick of each other. We’re passionate and sincere and in love. We don’t fight and haven’t had any arguments beyond getting annoyed about something stupid in probably over a year. And there isn’t a recipe to it. We aren’t somehow better than other people or anything. We just care A LOT about us. We’re hella compatible and we’re both aware of the imminence of death someday so we just refuse to fuck around.
And this book reminded me that every single day with the person I love is precious. Either one of us could get in a car accident any day. Or a serious illness. Or or or. And that’s terrifying, but it’s also sobering.
I don’t believe in an afterlife of any kind. If there’s anything “next” or if reincarnation is a thing, I won’t be me anymore. My consciousness is tied to my physical brain. My memories and emotions and “nurture” and perception and sheer existence are all dependent on my meat sack continuing to operate at full capacity. Sooooo my time is so important. And spending my time specifically with my best friend, my partner, my love is what I care most about. I have Evelyn Hugo (and Taylor Jenkins Reid) to thank for that much-needed reminder.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is available from online booksellers and your local bookstore. Read it. Seriously. It’s so good. You’ll cry and laugh and rejoice and remember to live and love and be. A much-deserved (even if no one truly “deserves” anything) five stars.