A heartbroken journalist explores the dark complexities of love, loss and memory in Chabot’s debut romance.
When Derry Danaher and Amedee Beauchene meet in the offices of the Milwaukee Ledger in 1971, it’s love at first sight. The story initially seems to be a straightforward account of their quirky romance; halfway through, however, a sudden twist changes the course of their lives, and the book transforms into a deeper meditation on the ways that love, honor and mortality clash with the day-to-day business of living. Derry embarks on an intensely romantic, if ethically hazy, quest to make his love for Amedee mean something to the world at large, and Chabot’s nuanced portrayal of these efforts is the book’s greatest strength. The plot itself, however, somewhat meanders—particularly in the idyllic first half, in which the characters face no conflicts. The novel also often relies on long expository sections, rather than letting characters and events speak for themselves. During one of Derry and Amedee’s first dates, for example, Chabot writes that “both were finding it surprisingly easy to bare innermost secrets they seldom disclosed,” without demonstrating why or how they came to feel that way. As a result, the romance, so central to the plot, progresses rapidly but remains opaque to readers. The book describes many secondary characters and key events at a remove, only providing superficial facts and backstory. The characters often end up seeming more like caricatures than actual people after multiple pages of description with little action or dialogue, and many events lack emotional immediacy. That said, the descriptions do allow for some witty asides, and Chabot’s grasp of historical detail helps make the environments feel vivid, genuine and immersive. Ultimately, the book seems almost like a parable, focused more on ideas and philosophy than on narrative tension or character development; for readers willing to accept that, Derry’s journey may serve as a thought-provoking exploration of profoundly human dilemmas.
A deft examination of hefty existential questions, hampered by a lightweight plot and characters.