British woman finds herself in an intimate e-mail relationship with the obscure ’80s rock star her music-obsessed ex idolizes.
Annie can understand liking American singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe. After all, his masterful breakup album, Juliet, is one of her favorites. The problem is that her longtime live-in boyfriend Duncan (an older, sadder version of Rob in Hornby’s High Fidelity, 1995) lives and breathes Tucker Crowe, to the exclusion of having an actual grown-up life. After 15 years, Annie realizes she has wasted her childbearing prime tied to a man who feels more passion for a reclusive musician than he could ever muster for her. Duncan then makes it easy for Annie to kick him out by cheating on her with Gina, a new performing-arts instructor at the school where he teaches. In the meantime, Annie has inadvertently begun a web correspondence with Tucker himself, who finds her through an astute post she leaves on one of Duncan’s geeky fan sites. The years have not been kind to Tucker, who lives in suburban Pennsylvania with his young son. His life bears little resemblance to the legend that has grown up around his disappearance more than 20 years earlier. Their meaningful exchanges awaken feelings in Annie that she had nearly given up on, while also giving her a vicarious thrill over one-upping Duncan. Tucker likes her too, finding her wit and kindness refreshing after years of chasing models. Living in a sleepy English seaside town, Annie has little hope of actually meeting her correspondent, but when a family drama brings Tucker to London, she sees an opportunity for adventure—and more. Tucker arrives, personal baggage in tow, and what happens next transforms both their lives in ways they could not have anticipated.
Few can match the muted humor, lingering poignancy and depth with which Hornby (A Long Way Down, 2005, etc.) limns his forgivably human characters.