Thirtysomethings meet, don’t quite couple, then retreat into a steamy, increasingly revealing correspondence in this quirky epistolary novel.
It’s a collaboration between short-story writer Almond (My Life in Heavy Metal, 2001, etc.) and chick-lit author Baggott (The Madam, 2003, etc.). Their creations are John and Jane, who meet at a wedding, check each other out, then tumble into a coat closet, unbuttoning and panting, until he backs off, and they subsequently agree to become better acquainted by exchanging detailed “confessions” at a safe distance (she’s in Philadelphia, he’s in New York). The episodic results are sexy, funny and touching. In alternating chapters bridged by combative responses and queries, we learn of John’s high-school romance with Rubenesque Jodi; a summer-camp-counseling fling extended into a lingering affair with an “older woman” (of 24); and gratifying dalliances with a Latina bombshell and a single mom who’s also an accomplished pastry chef. Jane’s confessions disclose a teenage relationship with Mohawk-bedecked Michael, a collegiate whirl with a semi-dashing (and clueless) rich guy (“It was like he was a country with his own anthem”), an affair with erotically versatile married swingers and engagement to a virtually perfect gentleman who won’t open up and let her inside his world of guarded family secrets. Acting on the shared conviction that “Every famous case of love boils down to reckless honesty,” they meet (literally) halfway, confront each other’s evasions and hangups and seem ready for the closet again, as The Curtain Falls. All’s well that doesn’t end after all, and the contented reader anticipates (what both Jane and John would have wittily, mercilessly mocked) something very like a future for these two bright, screwed-up, engaging oddballs.
Keen insights into sex, love and coming to terms with one’s own unruly imperfections. A winner.