The Journal by Matthew DeRiso

The Journal

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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. 20th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4793-0232-1
Page count: 298pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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