I remember hearing a story a few years back about a guy—from Toronto!—who was supposed to travel with is girlfriend, but they had broken up, so he was looking for someone with the same name to travel with him, since the tickets were non-transferable. I found someone, and they were going to document their trip online, but I never heard about how the story concluded. When I read the synopsis for Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith, the plot sounded all too familiar, but I loved the idea of seeing how this story could have gone, if the girl he travelled with didn’t already have a boyfriend.
It’s the perfect idea for a romantic week together: traveling across America by train.
But then Hugo’s girlfriend dumps him. Her parting gift: the tickets for their long-planned last-hurrah-before-uni trip. Only, it’s been booked under her name. Nontransferable, no exceptions.
Mae is still reeling from being rejected from USC’s film school. When she stumbles across Hugo’s ad for a replacement Margaret Campbell (her full name!), she’s certain it’s exactly the adventure she needs to shake off her disappointment and jump-start her next film.
A cross-country train trip with a complete stranger might not seem like the best idea. But to Mae and Hugo, both eager to escape their regular lives, it makes perfect sense. What starts as a convenient arrangement soon turns into something more. But when life outside the train catches up to them, can they find a way to keep their feelings for each other from getting derailed?
I really enjoyed this book! I was a bit worried going into it because the Goodreads reviews were not great (and I find they’re usually higher than books deserve), but in this case I think the community just has it wrong. Hugo and Mae were compelling characters that I enjoyed getting to know, and although the love story was a bit fast (the trip was only a week after all), there’s a non-cynical part of me that likes to think that love can happen that quickly between two complete strangers.
Learning that Hugo was a sextuplet right from the get-go…I was a little worried. I thought the story would fall back on that piece of information too much and that Hugo would be hard to relate to, but being part of a family unit unlike most really brought a different angle to his backstory and made his feeling trapped (in a way) really hit home. Mae’s relationship with her family was so fun to follow, and I loved that we got to be part of her latest film project.
I don’t have too much to say about this story, because it’s simply a delightful book to read and there isn’t anything too deep to read into, but that’s exactly the kind of thing I need to read in these crazy self-quarantining times. Lovers of romantic comedies will like this just as much as I did.
“Everyone grows up dreaming of something different, Hugo. And that’s okay. It’s what makes life so interesting.” —Jennifer E. Smith, Field Notes on Love
Thank you to Balazs Busznyak on Unsplash for the featured photo of the train.