I usually don’t read romance novels. You will never catch me with a Harlequin for example, but I won’t criticize those who read them. Any kind of reading is good for the gander.
I just started a new book. “The Rules of Love & Grammar” by Mary Simses. I have no idea how it got onto my Library list. If a book or an author is mentioned in the New Yorker, or if a friend recommends a book or author, I’ll throw it on the list. I order books from the library without having a clue what the book is about.
In the case of Rules of Love & Grammar, I’m an English teacher; of course, I’ll be attracted to a title with the word grammar; grammar has not been my strong suit for most of my life. Another great grammar book is “Eats. Shoots. And Leaves” was a great book. I don’t remember if the title had periods, commas, or nothing. Eats, shoots, and leaves?
I’m a hundred and twenty-one pages into the book, and all of the characters are jumbled up in my mind. It doesn’t help that the most recent book I read, Lost Dogs & Lonely Hearts, has a similar beginning to the plot line. Girl loses job, house/flat, and job. Lost dogs and Lonely hearts must have done well in publishing as there are several different covers. The book I was reading:
I’m going to have to backtrack on the book. I also have a hard time with first-person books that take a while to give me the I’s identity. Two books back, maybe three, “New Life” the I was anonymous for most of the book. I can’t remember the character’s name, though the number of times the name was mentioned might only have a small reason for my not remembering.
After 121 pages, I know the character has returned to her parents home in Connecticut after she lost her job, lost her boyfriend, and her ceiling collapsed. I don’t remember the city she had been living in. In Lost Dogs, she had been living the life of leisure in London, but she lost her job, her boyfriend, who had been a married man that she worked with, and the flat that was her boyfriend’s. I don’t know which came first, but her aunt died and left her a house and dog kennels and not any money to pay for anything, like estate taxes…
In Rules, she’s grumbling about roofers waking her up. I don’t know why she’s wearing Christmas pj’s; something to do with she didn’t have time to grab much before she had to vacate the apartment premises. She lists all of the things she would be doing on a Normal Thursday, going to the Hamptons with Scott would have been one of them. Someone has money. She can’t really call herself homeless since she’s with her parents in a nice house and on the waterfront. But going back to a small town where everyone knows your business, is a shock than being in the city. What city, I’m not sure.
It just happens that her best friend from elementary school has moved back to town and has forced my mystery first-person character from eating all four or so gallons of icecream in the freezer and getting her out of the house. And it just happens that her old flame from middle school has returned to town and has grown up to be a famous movie director. There’s another classmate who has moved back to town that is the antagonist.
I don’t know how old the character is. Parents, in their early sixties, still work. Mom’s an architecture that has this compulsion to create little shrines in other people’s homes to honor a dead daughter. I’ve read that an accident happened, but what happened and how long ago, I’m not sure. Every year, and yes, it just happens that her move back home, lands on the anniversary of her sister’s death as well as her dad’s sixty-fifth birthday; they are having a very large party, inviting hundreds of people. The dad is a poet and Literature professor. I don’t know where, though in the list of poets, Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, e.e. Cummings and Anne Sexton, the Sexton name pops up. She killed herself when I was a small child, and lived in my hometown. Weston, Massachusetts is a very small town.
Cluny is the name of her best friend from the first day of school at Smithridge Elementary. I was wrong about the best friend; she didn’t come back to the little town that I’ve already forgotten; she never left. Something Connecticut on a river. Cluny’s got it all, a soaring business creating greeting cards, a husband, two daughters, two dogs, two cats, and a canary. I wonder if I’ll meet the canary…
Sometimes I wonder if adding specific names to items helps or hinders the reader. My main character is leaning against a Chippendale chest. The only Chippendales I know are those male strippers. (I used to bowl on a team that used Chippendale cards. I’ve been on teams, majority male, that use playboy bunnies for their cards.)
I did mention that her parents had ice cream, didn’t I? Chocolate Chip, mint chocolate chip, cookie crunch, banana swirl, strawberry cheesecake. I still don’t know her name, but I’m only nine pages in as I re-read. Cluny will eventually say her name. Actually, in a re-re-read, I found her name. Mom had written her a note in her neat architecture manner and started it with Grace. If my daughter came home and I was writing a note about my going to work, I probably wouldn’t have written my daughter’s name. Grace would have known it was from her and who it was from even though it wasn’t signed. Actually, I would have dated the note, written my daughter’s name, and signed it mom, but this note felt like an easy way to tell the reader the name of the character, and it was only page four. I also missed Cluny saying Grace’s name in her excitement, and that was just three pages later. I’m guessing that they haven’t seen each other in a long time. I do remember the parents lamenting that they don’t see Grace nearly enough.
I think I’ll continue analyzing the book after I eat some lasagna.