Elizabeth Enfield, author of Ivy and Abe, discusses the idea of soulmates and whether there is a right person, or just a right time?
Do you believe in a soulmate? Is there a right person? Or just a right time?
These questions are at the heart of Ivy and Abe. Over the course of the book, the two characters meet again and again, throughout their lifetimes and in a series of alternate realities. Each time they meet, they are instinctively drawn to each other, but how their relationship turns out depends on the time and the circumstances.
Ivy and Abe are destined to meet. But they are not always destined to be.
Do I believe in the idea of soulmate? This idea dates back thousands of years, to the ancient Greeks and Plato who, in his Symposium, has Aristophanes tell us a story about soulmates. He says humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces but, fearing their power, the god Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.
I find this idea, that there is one other person in the world who is uniquely right for you, a bit frightening - mostly because the odds of actually ever meeting them seem stacked against us. According to Plato, these split beings were condemned to a lifetime of longing for their other half, which sounds like a form of torture, but when they do find each other, there is an unspoken understanding between them, an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy and no greater joy than that of coming together.
Do I believe that there are couplings in which people feel this amazement of love and of being completed by another? Yes, I do. It’s a wonderfully romantic notion, perhaps impossibly romantic but the pragmatist can tailor it to the real world, expand the number of soulmates available thereby increasing your chances of meeting them – and at the right time!
I find this idea, that there is one other person in the world who is uniquely right for you, a bit frightening
In my novel, Ivy will always meet Abe but for most of her life she is, not pining for her soulmate, but happily married to another man and blissfully unaware of Abe’s existence. If soulmates exist then fate and destiny must play their role in throwing two, perfect for each other people, into each other’s paths, before stepping back and letting them get on with it. And this is what happens to Ivy and Abe.
They are destined to meet, and they do, again and again: at school, as a free spirits in their twenties, as widow and widower in their seventies, and in mid-life when they are both married to other people.
Sometimes fate only allows them a brief glimpse of each other and they must continue their separate lives as strangers. Whenever they meet there is a connection, a sense that the other is a possible right person. But when will be the right time? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
What I can tell you is that, while throughout their lifetimes Ivy and Abe are essentially the same people at heart, fate and circumstances shape and mould them and the way that they relate to each other. Their love for each other is always ignited but sometimes they meet at the wrong time and the facts surrounding their lives will serve to dampen or extinguish the flame of love altogether.
When I talk to people about my novel, Ivy and Abe, their response is almost always the same. "I have story like that…" It’s an almost universal experience, meeting someone, however fleetingly, and wondering what might have happened if you had met at a different time or under different circumstances: from wondering what became of your first love (and perhaps cyber stalking them to find out), to falling for someone when you are with someone else, to the smallest exchange in passing, the quiet recognition of a connection, a spark and the wondering “what if?”
I wanted Ivy and Abe to not just be about ‘what ifs” but also to act as metaphor for long term relationships and how they shift and change over a long period of time. A friend recently told me how his great aunt and uncle had celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary and how, thirty years earlier they had been on the brink of divorce. To me this story was the perfect illustration of what my answer to the questions posed at the start of this piece would be.
Yes I believe in the idea of a soulmate but a relationship is never just between two people - time and circumstances are equal partners. They don’t always pull together but when they do , you find Plato’s amazement of love, friendship, intimacy and joy.
More about the author
'If you liked David Nicholls' One Day or Jojo Moyes' Me Before You, you'll love this uplifting read' Take a Break
Ivy is always destined to meet Abe.
But when is the RIGHT time?
At school, as a free spirit in her twenties or when she is married . . . to someone else?
Perhaps they meet when she is a widow in her sixties? Or maybe he remains a stranger, glimpsed only fleetingly.
Ivy and Abe are soulmates. But what if they meet at the WRONG time, and fate and circumstance stand in Ivy's way?
Told over Ivy's lifetime, across a series of alternate realities, Ivy & Abe is a story for anyone who has ever wondered 'what if?'
'Think 'Sliding Doors' meets One Day and wonder if there's a right person for everyone or just a right time' Red
'An epic love story' Araminta Hall