Matthew DeRiso received his BS in biology from Framingham State College and his MA in teaching from Bridgewater State College. Although he started out as a public school teacher, Mr. DeRiso quickly transitioned into the biotechnology industry. He currently works as a molecular biologist for a prominent pharmaceutical company in the Boston area.
When not working or writing, Mr. DeRiso spends his time in the gym and kayaking on the waters of southern Rhode Island and Cape Cod.
Mr. DeRiso’s debut novel, The Journal, is a love story. It takes the form of the protagonist’s own personal journal, and is written in a non-rhyming, free-form poetic style. The Journal tells the story of the protagonist’s romantic life, chronicling it through one year’s time, as he recovers from a break-up, struggles with loneliness, and searches for love. In his journal, the protagonist opens his heart and lays it bare. In reading it, one learns of a man’s heart, unshielded and genuine. But Mr. DeRiso recognizes that there is more to the human heart than the emotions that reside within. He recognizes that the functioning of the human heart is molded also by its ties to that which reside without. He has joined the protagonist’s heart to the natural world, the weather, and the seasons, thereby portraying the intricate and nuanced manner in which the human heart remains entwined with the earth. The Journal is, in final analysis, a contemplation and expression of the pinings, longings, and desires of the human heart, and the influencers of this world that bring them to rise.
“A misty-eyed paean to traditional romantic bliss.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A man searches for true love, as told through a year of journal entries.
DeRiso blends prose and poetry in his fictional account of an anonymous, lovelorn man looking for his one and only. The narrator begins to keep a journal after the heartbreaking loss of a lover, and the entries detail his progress through despair, hope, and renewal in the year that follows. This debut book mixes the formal conventions of poetry—deliberate line breaks, stanzas, rich imagery—with the confessional style and prosaic content of a traditional journal. The result is a dreamy novel with only hints of a plot, concerned much more with the narrator’s inner experiences than with the details of his life. The volume’s first third is an ode to the lost lover known only as My Baby, in which the narrator delves into the emotional intricacies of that relationship without ever quite telling the reader how and why it ended. Memories include making hot chocolate and doing jigsaw puzzles on Saturday nights and staying at an inn during a winter weekend (“We dined in a quaint little restaurant”). As the seasons pass, the story shifts toward his imaginings of an “unfound love” and efforts to make those dreams into reality (“I have been looking / Everywhere / Every day”). Throughout, DeRiso emphasizes the primacy of romantic love, frequently reiterating the narrator’s urgent concern: “Without the love of wife and children how memorable will life be?” In the unapologetically schmaltzy tradition of Nicholas Sparks, this book hews completely to the fairy-tale ideal of love; even the font is a florid cursive. Accordingly, readers’ enjoyment of the tale will depend largely on whether they swoon or scoff at lines such as, “Come, my love / Take my hand and step with me into our future.” But the narrator’s tribulations, though far from original, are relatable and affecting; anyone who has ever felt lonely or unlovable may find solace in his journey toward peace. At times, DeRiso writes reverently of the natural world and the harmony of life beyond romance, which lends the narrative a bit of spiritual depth. The book is ultimately more sugar than substance, but just as the narrator invites his fantasy lover to “leave petty reality behind,” DeRiso gives readers a pleasant way to do the same.
A misty-eyed paean to traditional romantic bliss.
Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2012
Page count: 298pp
Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2015
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