Pinterest tracking pixel
If you are having difficulty navigating this website please contact us at accessibility@bookofthemonth.com or 1-833-959-2686.
Oops! The page didn’t load right. Please refresh and try again.
  • GIFTS
  • SWITCH TO BOOKCLUBS
  • Bookclubs IconBookclubs
Already a member? Sign in.
All booksContemporary fictionOnly Love Can Break Your Heart
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington
Contemporary fiction

Only Love Can Break Your Heart

by Ed Tarkington

Quick take

Like The Wonder Years or A Christmas Story, Tarkington's ability to shine a retrospective light on the painful awkwardness of childhood is masterful and entertaining.

Why I love it

Liberty Hardy
BOTM Judge

Neil Young's hit 1970s song about love, loneliness and heartbreak lends its title to this wonderful coming-of-age novel. It's the perfect namesake for Ed Tarkington's story about all kinds of love, and learning that the things you think you understand when you are a child, may not have been what they seemed at the time.

1977: The narrator, an eight-year-old boy named Rocky, lives in a small Virginia town and and worships his teenage half brother, Paul. When Paul does something unforgivable and disappears, his abrupt departure wreaks havoc on the family.

1984: Rocky, now fifteen years old, is enjoying the perfect summer. But faces – and stories – from the past are about to change all that. And Rocky will learn that first love and familial love are more complicated than he had imagined.

Tarkington does a great job capturing Rocky in both stages of his life: as a naive boy reacting to the grown-up drama around him, and then as a teenager, with dreams and hopes and rampaging hormones. Like a Southern John Irving novel this book is both sweet and heartbreaking, most often when Rocky is getting himself into adult situations, like a fling with the neighbor's much-older daughter.

Like The Wonder Years or A Christmas Story, Tarkington's ability to shine a retrospective light on the painful awkwardness of childhood is masterful, and the story is entertaining and well-plotted, even when it takes a turn toward the more serious. Rocky might not always make the best decisions, but we're rooting for him regardless. Because that's what growing up is all about.

Read less

Member thoughts

All (214)
All (214)
Love (76)
Like (109)
Dislike (29)
247 ratings
  • 31% Love
  • 44% Like
  • 12% Dislike
    Contemporary fiction
    • Once There Were Wolves
    • The Bad Muslim Discount
    • Black Cake
    • If Only I Could Tell You
    • What Comes After
    • Olga Dies Dreaming
    • The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes
    • How Lucky
    • Last Summer at the Golden Hotel
    • Monster in the Middle
    • Nine Perfect Strangers
    • My Dark Vanessa
    • The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
    • The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes
    • Honey Girl
    • In Every Mirror She's Black
    • Beautiful World, Where Are You
    • Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?
    • Sankofa
    • The Unsinkable Greta James
    • The Verifiers
    • One Italian Summer
    • The Love of My Life
    • Beyond the Point
    • Good Company
    • Behold the Dreamers
    • True Story
    • This Close to Okay
    • When We Were Vikings
    • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
    • Queenie
    • In a Book Club Far Away
    • What Happens in Paradise
    • The Other Black Girl
    • The Identicals
    • The Kindest Lie
    • Happy & You Know It
    • That's What Frenemies Are For
    • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
    • Ties That Tether
    • Goodbye, Paris
    • The Prophets
    • Big Summer
    • How Not to Die Alone
    • The Mothers
    • The Last Story of Mina Lee
    • The Chicken Sisters
    • The Girl with the Louding Voice
    • The Music Shop
    • Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
    • Modern Lovers
    • The Comeback
    • Dear Edward
    • Little Fires Everywhere
    • White Ivy
    • A Woman Is No Man
    • Friends and Strangers
    • Startup
    • Troubles in Paradise
    • Winter in Paradise
    • All Adults Here
    • The Reckless Oath We Made
    • Impostor Syndrome
    • All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
    • Anxious People
    • Other People's Houses
    • The Removed
    • A Good Neighborhood
    • Apples Never Fall