The Half of It by Juliette Fay
What’s it About?
A poignant, propulsive novel about settling the past, rekindling lost friendships, and discovering love when you least expect it.
Helen Iannucci Spencer thought she could outrun her past, but somehow, it keeps catching up to her. What feels like a lifetime later, she thinks she has buried everything that happened between her and her childhood friend, Cal Crosby. But when the past comes barreling into her life in the form of a young boy, Cal’s grandson, she realizes that it is never too late for old wounds to be reopened. The Half of It (William Morrow) by Juliette Fay is a heartwrenching slice-of-life novel about growing older, second chances, and the people we let into our lives.
Friendship and Life-Long Love Rekindled
In chapters alternating between 1976 and 2021 and the years between, we see two versions of Helen. One is youthful and hopeful, beginning to form a connection with the awkward, funny, redheaded Cal. The older Helen is changed and grieving, worn down by years of regrets and missed chances. When they meet again, years later, Cal says, “‘I’m glad I know how you turned out.’ You don’t know, [Helen] thinks. Not the half of it.” The story drops readers in with a question that burns like a match: What happened between Helen and Cal all those years ago? We are left wondering, as Helen is, Is it too late for forgiveness?
As a young girl, Helen is trying to fit in — into her own body as a teenage girl, into the crowds at school, and into the life that her parents want for her. Young Cal shouldn’t be good for Helen — he’s lanky and awkward and wouldn’t make her look popular or cool — but somehow, she can’t help but grow to care for him. As they run alongside each other on the junior high track team, they form a steady bond. Cal opens up about his life as the oldest of six, the pressure he faces from his parents, and why he decided to take up running. Helen is the child of Italian immigrants, loves running and spending time with her best friend Francie, and doesn’t want to become someone she isn’t meant to be.
Cal and Helen’s friendship is the best thing for them — someone to spend time with, someone they can open up to, someone who won’t judge them. But a confession tears them apart, and when Cal becomes a popular football player and Helen buries herself in track, things are never the same. One night in the woods splits the pair in half, and they are buried in regret for the rest of their lives.
Married to other people, with lives, children, and grandchildren of their own, Cal and Helen spend their lives weighed down by shame. “Woulda done so many things differently if I’d known I would end up alone at fifty-eight, rattling around in too much space, with only that voice in my head saying, You blew it. You had a strong lead, and you still lost the race.” We’re rooting for the pair to find their happy endings, no matter what that looks like for them.
One Chance to Make Things Right
Set against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic, The Half of It deftly tackles concepts of loss, grief, and the all-too-familiar feeling of missing out on your own life. But rather than wallow in the what if’s and the what could have been’s, Helen and Cal use their accidental reunion as their one chance to make things right. And in the meantime, readers learn about everything that went wrong in their lives — their marriages, their parenting, their friendships, and the way the pandemic hit them in the worst ways.
With grace, careful insight and earth-shattering revelations from these characters that grow to feel like friends, this novel tackles the complexities of life. It asks readers to rethink their assumptions about what life is supposed to look like or how marriage and friendship are supposed to be. People can live outside of society’s constraints — they can dictate how their relationships and friendships evolve. They can make new friends, or reconnect with old ones, in the second half of their life. Everything could change in an instant, and there’s no right answer to help people choose which path to take. If they choose the wrong one, there is still time to mend it.
Juliette Fay reminds us in this touching and timeless novel that it is never too late to show yourself what it means to love and be loved. Sometimes forgiving someone else is something you do for yourself to let go of the hurt and heartbreak you carry with you. Sometimes, just talking about your pain with someone else is enough to make it easier to carry. And finally, after decades apart, Helen and Cal are able to share everything with each other — not just half of it.
The Half of It is available for purchase here.
About Juliette Fay:
Juliette Fay is the award-winning, bestselling author of seven novels, including The Tumbling Turner Sisters, a USA Today bestseller, and Shelter Me, a Massachusetts Book Award “Must Read Book” and Indie Next List pick. A graduate of Boston College and Harvard University, she lives in Massachusetts with her family.
Publish Date: 4/11/2023
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Author: Juliette Fay
Page Count: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow