Britisher Gayle (My Legendary Girlfriend, 2002) bowls another one down the lad-lit lane with this slight and lighthearted riff on fatherhood.
Dave, the Trinidadian music critic for Louder, “the magazine for people who live music,” and Izzy, his Anglo-Welsh-Polish wife, the deputy editor of the glossy women’s magazine Femme, are “poster children for the twin-income no-kids generation”—until the evening they set out to disprove an article Izzy has just edited on the decline in sexual activity among thirtysomething couples. Within weeks, the two are awaiting the results of a home pregnancy test. Dave finds himself more excited than Izzy about pending parenthood, and he writes a syrupy letter that begins, “Dear Foetus . . . .” When Izzy miscarries, Dave is eager to try again. Not she. Crisis Number One. Then Louder folds, and Dave slides into writing “sensitive male” articles for Femme and sitting in as an advice columnist at Teen Scene. He’s a surprise success at “Love Doctoring,” and his teenaged readers include one Nicola O’Connell, who writes him a letter identifying herself as Dave’s love-child, the result of a one-night stand with her mother in 1986 in Corfu. She’s recognized him from the photo on his column. Dave begins a clandestine parenting relationship with Nicola, meeting at a Burger King and beginning to feel like her father. But what to tell Izzy? All this is sappy at times, but Gayle is most nuanced in detailing Dave’s growing attachment to his daughter, and the complications her existence—and his secrecy—bring to his marriage. Along the way, the story’s enlivened by witty and knowing descriptions of the magazine world, including a sardonic pastiche of articles written from the sensitive guy’s point of view (“Women and the messages they leave on men’s answerphones”) and samples from Dave’s column (“Dear Love Doctor Dave, My dad caught me and my boyfriend lying on my bed kissing and he went ballistic. . . .”).
Slick and quick.