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In Defense of Jack and the ending of Never Look Back

I’ve done a few spoilerific blog posts about Nate, but it’s Jack’s turn. If you haven’t read the entire Emi Lost & Found series (Lost and Found, Time Stands Still and Never Look Back), please go read those books and then come back here for my post.

This is just me, defending my characters and the decisions they made. Again, a few people have made some comments, and while they’re entitled to their opinions, I’m entitled to the Truth According to Lori (which is simply my opinion, to you). 🙂

Somewhere between the middle and end of Never Look Back, Jack gives Emi an ultimatum: if she loves Jack more than Nate, then he wants to be with her. If she doesn’t, though, he can’t be second best. One reader says this moment in the story made her like Jack less. It made me like Jack more. Sure, he could have gone on with his life letting Emi walk all over him, punch him when she was mad, get super emotional anytime Nate was brought up. He could have been a doormat. He could have lived his life accepting that his love for Emi was enough for both of them, and even if she loved Nate more, Jack got her in the end. He could have done those things, but he wouldn’t have gotten his happily ever after, and I think he deserved it.

One thing I love about Jack is his confidence, but let’s face it. His confidence is founded on his own feelings and a little faith. There’s nothing concrete there, and insecurities will get through eventually. Emi lost her best friend, her lover, the man who was to be the father of her child. Emi had a lot of baggage with Nate. Jack was accepting of nearly all of it, but he wanted to hear one thing from her. He wanted to be Emi’s choice, and not Emi’s fate. To me, he was completely justified in giving her this ultimatum, and I think when he delivered it, he knew she would choose Jack because he knew she did love him more, and love him best (and was completely caught off guard when she didn’t meet him at the airport).

Emi just kept holding on to her past, with or without knowing it. She needed a wake up call. When Jack made her choose, it was more than a year and a half after Nate had died. They’d dealt with other obstacles that had the potential to keep them apart. Nate was always an underlying issue. Jack brought him to the forefront, that’s all. He didn’t ask her to forget about him, or to never bring him up again. He wanted her to know his insecurity here, to know that he had needs, too. So much of the beginning of their relationship had been about her. For this union to work, he wanted some attention, too. He wanted to know they were committed at the same level to be assured they could give equally to their partnership. Once she said the words, that was all he needed to hear. Now confident in his knowledge that she definitely felt the same about him that he felt for her, Jack didn’t flinch every time Nate’s name was brought up. There was no longer that lingering question. He felt so confident, in fact, that he brought Nate back into their lives by partnering up with Donna, creating Nate’s Art Room, building a gallery for him, and putting Emi’s office inside that gallery space. He knew Nate inspired his to-be wife. He encouraged this. Jack couldn’t have done that without having her affirm that her greatest love was for him.

Another reader feels that Jack coerced Emi into wanting kids. She always wanted kids, and after she had been pregnant with Nate’s child and lost it, there was a void in her life that stayed with her from the day she miscarried the baby. It was Emi’s self-doubt, her questioning of why things happened to her, that made her think she wasn’t meant to be a mother. Plus, by building that wall, she was testing Jack. She was giving him a way out, warning him that he may never get a family with her… period. She didn’t want to be a let down, nor did she want to be someone he resented later on in life. She was just trying to tell him that babies may not be a given. It may not be in the cards for them… she didn’t want to disappoint him. She couldn’t bear to see the heartbreak on his face if they ever had to face such devastating news months or years down the line. Emi needed Jack to assuage her fears, to dig beneath them and show her what she’d already known in herself but was too afraid to see again. She didn’t need to be convinced that she wanted children. She needed to be convinced that God wasn’t sending her a message that she shouldn’t be a mother. She also needed to be convinced that Jack would be at her side, no matter what happened. Just like she told him, she wanted to be enough for him. I think he convinced her of that, but also convinced her that enough wasn’t what either of them wanted. They would be happy together, but they would be happier with a family – if not in actually having one, they’d be happier doing whatever they could to create one.

Lastly, someone thinks that Jack and Emi should have waited longer to adopt a child. Jack and Emi both firmly believe that all things happen for a reason. They also both realize that they don’t want to waste another moment of their lives. Emi has learned the hard way that life is short, and by proxy, so has Jack. When they met Livvy, something clicked with each of them, individually. It wasn’t a conscious moment. It was love at first sight. They pursued adoption with her, but would have settled with simply finding a good home for an orphaned girl that stole their hearts, so they devoted all of their resources to making that happen. For once, luck was on their side, and their devotion to Livvy’s well-being paid off in everyone’s favor. If someone placed a million dollars in front of you, and you happened to want a million dollars really badly, wouldn’t you take it? Or would you think, “well, it’s payday, and I have plenty of money today.  Maybe it’ll be there next week, when I need it?” No! You’d take the money and run! You’d seize the opportunity. That’s what they did. Carpe diem. It was a decision they made as individuals first, then solidified it with plans as they worked together as a couple. Luckily, adoption doesn’t happen overnight anyway. If at any time they felt it was too soon, or that this wasn’t the right child for them, they could have backed out and found a better home for her. But ten months after they met this little girl, she legally became a Holland, and like the book says right on the cover, they never looked back.

Never once have I questioned the decisions these characters made. I think, if put in their shoes, many people would react in the same manner. It’s a given, though, that many people would not. That’s the joy of free will, I guess.

Anyway. Those are just some things I’ve had on my chest this week. Reviews make me think. They make me think hard, and sometimes, they make me doubt the story, my talent, etc. It’s not always rational, but then neither am I. Sometimes I have to get my rebuttals down “on paper.” Sometimes I keep those thoughts to myself… but other times, like today, I just feel a little defensive of stories. Today, I wanted to defend my sweet, sweet Jack.

Thank you all for reading and posting your comments… because I do respect them all and like that they challenge me to delve further into the psychology of these characters who seem very, very real to me.

4 thoughts on “In Defense of Jack and the ending of Never Look Back

  1. I love this post. While I never, ever like ultimatums, I did feel that Jack put up with a lot from Emi. She didn’t make things easy for him but he stuck with her and supported her without question and without much thought for himself. What this ultimatum was about was Jack doing something for Jack. He needed to remind Emi that their relationship did not revolve around her, and was not about Jack pandering to her. It was about give and take and Jack needed for Emi to give a little after taking a whole lot and he needed to take a little after giving a whole lot. In the end it’s this that makes their relationship so wonderful. It really is a partnership and Jack laid the foundation for this with his ultimatum.

    The Emi and children thing was never an issue for me. I completely understood where she was coming from. Jack wanted a family so badly and she didn’t want to let him down. And she was unsure… I was completely in sync with Emi on this.

    It was the same with the adoption. Jack and Emi didn’t go into that hospital looking for a lost child to adopt. Livvy found them and was theirs, timing be damned.

  2. I have to agree that Jack had every right to give her the ultimatum. He stuck by her though so much when most men would have walked away. It can be hard enough to live with the shadow of a ex or a best friend never mind if they had passed away because people tend to idolise the dead and forget about the flaws. It would be easy to see why Jack felt insecure. And to be fair Emi did nothing to reassure him. As much as I love Emi in all of the books there where a few times within the relationship build between them that I wanted to just jump in the book and give her a good shake and tell her to look at the amazing man that is in front of her and truely loves her most people would give anything to have that kind of love. It was the wake up call she needed. You can’t live in the past & in the fantasy of what could of been. Emi and Nate would have been happy together if he had survived be she wouldn’t of been truly happy with him something would have always been missing which in the end would have torn them apart.
    As for Jack pushing her to being a parent and them adopting to soon I think a lot of women would go through the torment of thinking that it was gods/the universes way of saying they should have children if they find out they can’t physically have them. It would be a knee jerk reaction and for her intensified by the lose of her best friend. If she really didnt want children she would of had an abortion when she found out she was carrying Nates baby. Adoption is a wonderful idea there are millions of children out there that need someone to love them and give them a safe happy and stable environment. It’s great that Lori has broached this topic in her book. Emi was just scared of the disappointment of the possibility that they may not get a child. As for timing I’m sure a lot parents would admit that their child/ren was not planned but is still loved and cherished all the same whether or not they came earlier than expected.
    These books are beautifully written with amazing characters and written in a way that makes you feel connected to each person in them and love them for who they are. I’ve never been moved by a book or film the way I was with these books Lori is a truly gifted and talented writer and look forward to the second book in the contessa series.

      1. First of all, don’t ever doubt your abilities or the characters YOU have created. These two characters have spoken volumes to me and I am sure that they have and will do the same to others. About Jack’s ultimatum…..yes without a doubt he needed to give it to her. And about the children issue….having gone through the adoption process twice I can tell you that the fear and insecurity that accompanies it can be very hindering sometimes. You do feel that maybe God is trying to tell you something or that the universe has a plan and it’s just not in yours to be a mother. Emi’s fear and insecurity was dead on accurate! I don’t think Jack coerced her at all. He just knew her that well…this wasn’t about not wanting children it was about fear. Fear of getting your hopes up and being disappointed, or worse, disappointing the one you love. Emi’s fear of yet another devastating loss in her life was enough to scare her away from the things that could bring her true happiness. I like to believe that Jack knew her well enough when to push her and when not to. Thank you for listening to me rant!

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