Levin debuts her first novel, an exploration of the dating scene from the perspectives of two single women at very different stages of their lives.
During a hiatus between jobs, and freshly out of a relationship with her boyfriend, Vanessa, who’s in her 30s, visits her grandmother in Florida. Sitting by the pool, she meets Michelle, a widow in her 60s, and they strike up a conversation about the perils of dating. Michelle mentions she has been working on a book about her adventures and, more often, misadventures meeting men after the death of her husband. Over the course of the next week or so, Michelle shares portions of her work with Vanessa, and they discuss its progression. The journal, narrated by Michelle, becomes a book within a book, each chapter prefaced and followed by Vanessa’s commentary, which includes short descriptions of some of her own failed romantic escapades. Gradually, the women conclude that contemporary dating is similarly crappy for women of any age. Michelle assigns a variety of monikers to her dates, many of whom sound like egocentric adolescents. There’s “The Squeezer,” “The Groper,” and, not to be forgotten, “Panties Man,” a clod who, on their first date, thought it would be enticing for Michelle to go to the restaurant’s bathroom and remove her underwear. The author takes readers down a long trail littered with “clueless” men behaving badly. It’s an interesting, sometimes depressing, and frequently funny journey. Unfortunately, the prose is inconsistent, with too many instances of awkward and clichéd phrasing, e.g., “After listening to all that Michelle had told me, hit me like a ton of bricks.” And the relationship between Vanessa and Michelle feels like a contrived narrative construct. Still, the compendium of cautions, pitfalls, and triumphs in the age of internet dating successfully communicates the author’s “message to men to respect women and for women in turn to respect themselves.”
Editorial carelessness notwithstanding, laughs and warnings abound for straight single women.