We Can’t Keep Meet­ing Like This

  • Review
By – October 25, 2021

When parental expec­ta­tions clash with a teenager’s legit­i­mate need for inde­pen­dence, fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships can frac­ture. In Rachel Lynn Solomon’s We Can’t Keep Meet­ing Like This, Quinn Berkowitz, a sen­si­tive eigh­teen-year-old with sev­er­al men­tal health chal­lenges, feels torn apart by con­flict­ing emo­tions. For years her par­ents have assumed that, like her old­er sis­ter Ash­er, Quinn will join their fam­i­ly wed­ding plan­ning busi­ness, but she has grad­u­al­ly become aware that this role will not make her hap­py. At the same time, her attrac­tion to Tarek Man­sour, a child­hood friend, has made the sit­u­a­tion even more con­fus­ing, caus­ing her to ques­tion what she expects from a roman­tic rela­tion­ship. Solomon fol­lows Quinn’s con­flict­ed reac­tions to friends and fam­i­ly with com­pas­sion and authen­tic­i­ty in this engag­ing nov­el for young adults.

The mot­to of the Berkowitz fam­i­ly busi­ness, meant to assure cus­tomers of their ded­i­ca­tion to qual­i­ty with­out com­pro­mise, is Noth­ing less than our best.” To Quinn, how­ev­er, the slo­gan has become a dis­turb­ing piece of evi­dence of her family’s mal­func­tion. Sev­er­al years ear­li­er, her par­ents tem­porar­i­ly sep­a­rat­ed but nev­er explained to her the rea­son for their deci­sion. Her old­er sister’s enthu­si­asm for their par­ents’ career path leaves Quinn feel­ing even more like an out­sider, resent­ful of a lack of con­sid­er­a­tion for her per­son­al goals and needs. Then there is Tarek. His par­ents’ cater­ing com­pa­ny has always worked close­ly with the Berkowitz group, and Tarek is an aspir­ing chef. Once Quinn real­izes that her feel­ings for him have evolved from friend­ship to some­thing resem­bling love, she becomes afraid. Mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­fu­sion inter­vene, as Quinn’s anx­i­ety and depres­sion influ­ence her inter­pre­ta­tion of Tarek’s motives. At the same time, he unwit­ting­ly sends mixed mes­sages that might cause any­one to ques­tion her own respons­es. Solomon con­veys the typ­i­cal anguish of first love but per­son­al­izes the expe­ri­ence for the read­er with vivid and believ­able characters.

Ques­tions about Jew­ish iden­ti­ty add an inter­est­ing thread to the nov­el. In the Berkowitz’s Seat­tle com­mu­ni­ty, Jews are a minor­i­ty but are a sig­nif­i­cant part of social and busi­ness cir­cles. Like many young Jew­ish adults, Quinn is unsure of what exact­ly her eth­nic and reli­gious back­ground means to her per­son­al­ly. Solomon inter­spers­es Quinn’s reflec­tions through­out the nar­ra­tive, as dif­fer­ent events in her life pro­voke new thoughts. A brief affil­i­a­tion with a Jew­ish youth group had been moti­vat­ed by a vague search for Jew­ish con­nec­tions, while her sister’s mar­riage to Gabe, from a more obser­vant Jew­ish fam­i­ly, increas­es her feel­ings of inse­cu­ri­ty. Many read­ers will relate to Quinn’s rea­son­ing; if her sis­ter and brother-in-law’s Judaism is so clear­ly on dis­play,” per­haps her own more ambiva­lent iden­ti­ty is not quite Jew­ish enough.” Tarek’s sim­i­lar ques­tions about his own reli­gion cre­ate an addi­tion­al con­nec­tion between them.

Solomon’s nov­el ben­e­fits from over­lap­ping per­spec­tives on Quinn’s dilem­ma, includ­ing romance, men­tal health issues, and fam­i­ly con­flicts with their impact on per­son­al iden­ti­ty. Quinn plays the harp at wed­dings. When an old­er harp play­er becomes Quinn’s men­tor, she encour­ages the younger musi­cian to choose among dif­fer­ent mod­els: Which one speaks to you?” This advice could be the metaphor at the core of Quinn’s engag­ing sto­ry, from begin­ning to end.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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