A novel about the complexities of relationships, the nature of romantic chemistry and dating in the digital age.
At the center of Diersen’s debut novel is Wisconsin-based advice columnist Roxanne Browne, who dispenses her wisdom via a syndicated column. One day, Roxanne receives a letter asking for her advice regarding online dating. Unversed in the world of Internet relationships, she decides to delve headfirst into investigating that world—particularly one site, thematchcafe.com, which distinguishes itself by claiming to use a science-based system to “match members based on common values and other key components of compatibility.” Roxanne decides to test its science via a simple plan: Both she and her beloved husband, Walker, will join the site, fill out personality surveys, then wait to be paired as a match. All does not go according to plan, however; she and Walker, happily married and with excellent chemistry, are not deemed a compatible pair—a result that launches an even deeper investigation into the site’s method of calculating compatibility. Roxanne recruits Walker to help; he’ll go on blind dates with several women the site has deemed to be good matches for him, then report on their actual, in-person compatibility. What ensues are several hilarious dates, lots of critical analysis and even more uncertainty about what makes two people the perfect pair. Within an amusing framework, Diersen’s entertaining book explores some heavy, important themes: commitment in relationships, different types of attraction, and the biological and psychological factors behind chemistry. Diersen includes many rich, well-developed, likable characters, including Alethia Dornquast, Roxanne’s narcissistic friend with an overinflated ego, and Bunny and Mack, her loving if cartoonish parents who are compared to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. However, she also includes the tales of several characters not directly related to the book’s plot, and the lengths of those stories and their level of detail often distract from the novel’s actual narrative. For example, Chapter 6 features an in-depth story about Renee, a former client of Roxanne’s, and her abusive relationship, which lasts for more than 10 pages but has no direct connection to the online-dating plot. More focus on the actual characters involved in investigating thematchcafe.com would serve to make the already engaging plot more compelling.
A lighthearted novel with some interesting tidbits about chemistry and attraction and a clever criticism of how technology can connect yet disconnect two people.