When We Collided by Emery Lord is one of those lover’s knot stories that sneaks up on you. Straight off, you know these two characters, Vivi and Jonah, were going to fall in love and thus change something about themselves. But, until the end Lord keeps Vivi’s façade up and running, focusing primarily on Jonah and his family.
There are times Vivi’s condition is hinted at and discussed but never in detail and never with Jonah. That’s where the relationship fails. That’s the ultimate breaking point for Vivi, I think. She never told Jonah the truth until it was too late to matter.
I could spend all day breaking down every fine point in their relationship and what it meant or didn’t mean, but what it boils down to is the connection between them. I call these types of romances lover’s knot stories because the author takes every detail about each lover and knots it together to make them not only individuals, but a single entity. In Celtic tradition the lover’s knot has no beginning and no end, symbolizing an eternal love, it also cannot be untied, symbolizing an unbreakable love.
Lord uses modern language and spectacular knowledge of intimate relationships to bring this relationship to the forefront of the story, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention a few other characters as well.
Felix and his daughter Ellie show up in the story right when we find out about Vivi’s condition, Jonah still doesn’t know, but it emphasizes the loneliness they both feel even with each other. Ellie stays close to Jonah after her reintroduction into his life because she knows his mom needs help. After seeing her brother battle depression, she didn’t want anyone else she cared about to feel that pain. Jonah’s mom is a constant in the story, you can always feel her in everything Jonah says or does, because everything he says or does is for his family, to keep his mom protected.
This was a remarkable work of fiction. Having suffered through some of these things personally and seeing my friends suffer through them, I can say it’s one of the most honest portrayals of emotionally unstable relationships I’ve read. Lord does an amazing job with her use of language, her spot on dialogue, and her subtleties.