‘A shuffling of expectations’

The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch
by Jacqueline Firkins

New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2023
$18.00 / 9781250836526

Reviewed by Myshara Herbert-McMyn


With The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch, Vancouver’s Jacqueline Firkins has delivered a sweet, relatable romance about childhood friends reconnecting and slowly fitting into each other’s lives.

Imogen Finch is a young woman who had moved back to her hometown to work six jobs to support herself and her mother after yet another heartbreak. Between her jobs and her mother’s habit of wandering the town and injuring herself, Imogen doesn’t have time romance—especially her brand of it. Her love life is fraught with challenges, as ‘predictable heartbreaks’ so plainly points out. Every guy she’s dated has left her for another woman. So, it’s no wonder she doesn’t put herself first—and doesn’t believe anyone else will either. 

Eliot and Imogen were friends growing up. After high school, Eliot departed abruptly to travel the world. He left behind his friends and cut off personal communication. Imogen has followed Eliot’s YouTube channel to get updates on his life. I wanted more characterization for Eliot in the first half of the novel, because most of his stories are told through dialogue or second-hand accounts. That’s all Imogen gets of him, however, and I came to understand that the ghostliness was purposeful. As imagined by Firkins (Marlowe Banks, Redesigned) Eliot appears mysterious and out-of-reach because he’s made himself into a person no one really knows. 

Author Jacqueline Firkins

Instead of moving back home and building connections and ties to the community they grew up in, Eliot broke off everything with family and friends in order to escape that community and experience the globe.

Imogen understands why he does it, but it causes a rough emotional journey for her. She feels conflicted—jealous that she can’t do what she would like to and excitement for her friend to pursue his worldly dreams. Add in that Imogen is hopelessly in love with Eliot, and it becomes an emotionally fraught problem. How could she possibly be with him when she is tied to her mother and he can’t stop moving from one place to the next, constantly seeking adventure and something he can’t pinpoint? What lovely tension. 

The third friend in their trio, Franny, seemed to be moving into a rival position as a threat to Imogen and Eliot’s romance. The reader will soon see that—as it should—Imogen’s perspective is colouring the presentation of the other characters and informing our interpretation of Franny. Though Franny acts as a red herring, she still provides Imogen with a moments of internal conflict and tension regarding Eliot. She also provides a level of emotional support to Imogen that her mother can’t give her, as many of our good friends do.

Imogen’s mother is a very interesting character. It’s unclear exactly how her health is failing, but she wanders away from home and tends to end up injured and stuck in odd locations. She says she wanders because she has premonitions. She sees signs and portents around her and must climb slippery rocks or swim out to sea in order to read the signs she feels pulled towards. 

The novel itself opens with a prophecy as she counts thirteen birds through the window and says, “A change is coming, Imogen. A shuffling of expectations. A surprise…. Thirteen birds. And a shift in the wind. I felt it in my bones, just like when your father died.” Prophecies are a great way to up the stakes of a story; and revealing that she predicted the death of her husband is a good way to get the reader to believe that she could be right. This character’s outlooks also sets the tone for how the world around Imogen is going to act. Things are about to be thrown sideways and she’ll have to change in order to find her part in it. Imogen shakes her head and laughs off her mother’s premonition, but we learn from other members of their small community that all her mother’s premonitions have come true, giving her more credibility.

Imogen is composed of very real feelings, emotions, and struggles. How many of us will find ourselves caring for one or both parents as they age? How many of us work multiple jobs or have multiple incomes to make ends meet? Or are realizing the debts and mortgages we will inherit have a higher chance of being a burden than a benefit? The problems and tensions in Imogen’s life are realistic situations that many readers will relate to. I found these a refreshing change from the silly ‘problems’ that occur in many romances.

If you’re looking for a feel-good, standalone, contemporary romance, The Predictable Heartbreaks of Imogen Finch is, in my opinion, the epitome. It has all of the good tension without the frustration of miscommunication and a lovely little crew of characters to keep you entertained. It’s a realistic story as well, with problems that can and do happen in real life, like Eliot’s wanderlust and Imogen’s ties to her mother and her bills. Don’t worry, though—the real-life aspects won’t overwhelm the romance or the escapist purpose of fiction. 


Myshara Herbert-McMyn

Myshara Herbert-McMyn is a book reviewer and aspiring writer living in Kelowna. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Thompson Rivers University and runs the blog Lit&Leta. [Editors note: Myshara Herbert-McMyn has reviewed books by Erica McKeen, Kate Gateley, S.M. Freedman, Tiana Warner, Brooke Carter, Becky ParisottoSara DesaiTara Moss, and Sonya Lalli for BCR.]


The British Columbia Review

Interim Editors, 2023-25: Trevor Marc Hughes (non-fiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)
Publisher: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an online book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board now consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. The British Columbia Review was founded in 2016 by Richard Mackie and Alan Twigg.

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

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