Sunday, October 6, 2019

Book Review: Twenty-one Truths About Love: A Novel by Matthew Dicks

I liked my first Matthew Dicks novel, Something Missing. I loved loved loved the second Matthew Dicks novel I read, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. So when I saw he had a new novel coming out from my own company, I jumped on it. Even though it's written in a gimmicky style. The entire novel comprises of lists.

Normally a novel with a convoluted, contrived structure and/or format screams "MFA thesis!" at me and I run away screaming. Normally. The exception proves the rule.

Things I hate in a novel:

  • unnamed narrators 
  • lack of quotation marks 
  • second person 
  • a "chorus" 
  • sudden and complete narrative changes halfway through the book. 

You have to be a MASTER to pull that shit off. You've made the bar a million times higher and I'm going into your novel expecting to hate it. Is that what you want? Don't flout convention simply to flout it. You MUST have a VERY GOOD reason. And you must be able to write at the caliber of Ian McEwan to pull off the "Oh wait--you've been reading a novel written by one of the main characters! Now let's get to the real story." (And he does pull it off, but others don't.) Have I liked books with these ridiculous contrivances? Yes. But as I say, I hold them to a much, much higher standard and go in with a bad attitude. (And I have recently even read a Pulitzer Prize-nominee who pulled this crap and I hated her novel.) Luckily, this book is one of the beloved exceptions.

Things I loved about Twenty-One Truths About Love:

  1. Lists (which are the best).
  2. Actually had a plot. (Which I wasn't sure about going into a novel written in lists.)
  3. Was funny.
  4. Was touching.
  5. Hinted throughout at an outlandish crazy thing that might happen. Which I never thought would. But then, HE WENT THERE!
  6. Made me think maybe I could also start journaling if I did it as lists.
  7. Made me wonder what I would do for my spouse, or my child (if I had one).
  8. Made me think about what it would be like if my spouse had a first wife who'd died, and how that would change everything. It's hard to compete with a ghost.
  9. Loved the friendship with the older vet.
  10. Features an independent bookstore!
If I haven't sold you on the book, well, your loss. It's a warm, quick read with humor and angst and crises and it felt very real. And I kind of really, really want to try bullet journaling now. Who knows--maybe I'll end up writing a story.

Published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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