A New Yorker searches for a new boyfriend in Dunning’s (The River Secrets, 2013) novel.
Twenty-seven-year-old Greta Smart manages projects at Waxler & Braun in Manhattan after having relocated from the Midwest. Although she has a circle of devoted friends, she’s painfully aware of her lack of a significant other, especially when she compares herself with her pal Briana, a bartender, who no sooner breaks up with one boyfriend than she has another. One day, after a lengthy liquid lunch, Greta returns to work inebriated and pressured to quickly prepare a presentation. Things don’t go well, putting her on the outs with the client and her boss, and she loses the upper hand to a smarmy co-worker. Soon afterward, Greta meets the successful but self-satisfied Californian Henry Mann, who’s in town briefly for a convention, and she finds herself both drawn to and repelled by him. Since he’s not local, a future with him seems unlikely, but from time to time, she still thinks about him. When Greta’s beloved grandmother falls ill, she drives home to Michigan to visit with her father and brother and make peace with her prickly mother. Despite the book’s catchy title and snappy cover art, the text is afflicted by excessive telling and little showing. The most enjoyable passages are when those in Greta’s orbit take center stage, and readers may find that her thorny mother and easygoing friend Briana are more intriguing characters. Greta wonders why she’s a singleton, but her frequent dismissive, prejudicial assessments of others (“nerd,” “weirdo,” “clod”) may be one explanation. Instead of sharing in a friend’s happiness, she is “galled” and questions why people around her are better off than she is. Readers may be meant to glean that she has an aha moment while visiting her ailing Gran, but this emotional truth never quite hits the page.
A lightweight tale with a supporting cast that’s more appealing than the heroine.