Friday, February 29, 2008

The Opposite of Hate

"Read me a book and I'll be entertained for a day, teach me to read and I'll have a nervous breakdown when I realize I can't read every book I see." There are more books in my life than there is time. I try to make up for that by taking a book with me wherever I go- movies (while standing in line), grocery stores (makes it hard to steer the cart), sporting events (look out for that home run ball), family parties (find a quiet corner and ignore everyone), and even church (where better to read a religious book?). If a book doesn't appeal to me quickly, I put it aside and find another. I don't have time to waste reading bad books.

Recently I had a short conversation with an author to whom I admitted, her book was displayed in the store, but I had not read it. Short story even shorter- I got a copy of "The Opposite of Love" by Julie Buxbaum, and promised her I would read it.

After reading a few pages I stopped. "Oh, man," I moaned. "This is chick lit!" Now, before I receive complaints from my readers, let me say, there is nothing wrong with chick lit. Many people enjoy this type of book- I don't. I occasionally enjoy a good "chick flick" (Notting Hill, You've Got Mail, etc.), but don't tell anyone. I don't want my masculine image destroyed.

So, what was I to do? I have a stack of books on my bedside table, on my desk at home, and behind my desk at work that I need to read. Do I forge ahead and finish the book regardless, or do I put it aside and lie to the author- "Nice book, good job, well written..."

First, I had promised to read it and second, I hate lying to authors about their books, so I continued reading. Only a few more pages in, my opinion changed, this wasn't "chick lit", and I finished the book in three days (keep in mind I am usually reading 3-4 books at a time or I would have had it finished in a day or two).

Emily Haxby is lost. She breaks up with her boyfriend of two years because she thinks he is going to propose (she's right, he was about to). Her job at a prestigious law firm is far less than satisfying, especially after one of the partners makes unwanted sexual advances. Her mother died when she was fourteen and she's never had an open relationship with her father (lying to each other about life is just what they do). The one person in life who has always been there for Emily is her Grandpa Jack and she is losing him to Alzheimer's. It seems the only way she can turn is inward, which sends her on a downward emotional spiral.

The appeal of "The Opposite of Love" is that most readers can identify with Emily Haxby in one way or another. I did. We all have those times when we feel lost and frustrated with life and Julie captures those emotions perfectly in Emily's character. How we choose to deal with being lost, either by staying lost or by finding ourselves again, is the story of life and is ultimately Emily's story. Nothing ever works out perfectly, loose ends are not all tied up nicely, and life may or may not go where we think it will.

Julie Buxbaum has written a wonderfully honest character surrounded by a host of quirky supporting characters that made what could have been just more "chick lit" into a refreshing look at what happens when we get lost and how we find ourselves.

No comments: