I will meet you on Wednesdays at noon in Celebration Park. Kissing only.Um, yes. Yes, please. Shades of Ruthie Knox's Big Boy began to drift over me (Knox actually blurbed this one). And we all know how I felt about that little bit of perfection. So basically at that point nothing--but nothing--was keeping me from giving Mary Ann Rivers' debut novella a shot.
Carrie had a minor existential meltdown at work. Just a minor one. It involved her supervisor (and friend) at the library offhandedly remarking that an Alaskan cruise with Carrie's parents was a totally valid vacation for a thirty-something single woman to take. The conversation devolved from there, and Carrie wound up surfing the web at three in the morning picking out used furniture she doesn't need and questioning the series of life choices that brought her to that point. Then, in need of the kind of comfort only browsing the singles ads on Metrolink can provide, she ran across one that stood out from all the others. Kissing only, it said. He would be there every Wednesday without fail. Either party is free to back out at any time. Simply don't show up, and the other will understand it's over and they will part as indifferent strangers. And so just for a lark, just because she's alone and not actually interested in going on that Alaskan cruise with her folks anymore, Carrie answers the post. And so she meets Brian. And so she is soon on the receiving end of the kiss to end all kisses. And so begins a non-relationship that she might never want to let go. If she can only figure out how to be more than just Wednesdays.
The Story Guy is singularly addicting. The protagonist is a teen services librarian, for crying out loud. So obviously, she and I were like this from page one. Then she had to go and be all philosophical and perceptive about singles ads online and it was like my eyes had fastened on her plight and nothing could tear them away. It helps that I resonated with the way she narrates her life and, most of all, with the way she calmly assesses the rabbit hole she's gone down and goes about doing what she needs to in order to hold onto the wonder she finds there. For example:
I should take his kisses with me and go. But with a seeping, resolute calm, I decide to keep him. I am not losing these Wednesdays, even if I can't have anything else. "Stop. It's okay. Don't explain--I swear it's fine."It was that resolute calm that really got to me. Well, that and the kissing. Naturally. And, yes, in case you were wondering, this is a book where she saves him. She so saves him, you guys. And does he ever need it. The thing is, they're both just right down in the trenches of life. Right down in them. The loneliness and the doggedness and the relentlessness of every one of their days stole my breath they were so close to the surface. The similarities to Knox's Big Boy did hover around the edges of my mind as I read, although The Story Guy has a sweeter overall tone, flirting near the edges of precious particularly near the end. Gratefully, Rivers' sure way with words saves it from irrevocably crossing that line. So if you like quietly beating stories about girls who save their guys and guys who are actually so very nice but have convinced themselves they're not nice at all, then this book is undoubtedly for you. Lastly, just for you guys, my favorite passage:
"It doesn't have to be." His flush is draining, his eyes clearing. The tendrils of heat between us lose their moorings in the breeze. I shiver.
"But it is." I straighten up. Fix my own glasses. He is looking at me with doubt. "It is." And as soon as I say it, it's true. I go back to feeling tender, but the feeling is overlaid with a new trust, which when I examine that trust later may feel misplaced, but I am fine to act on that trust now.
I have never been gladder for my own uncomplicated life, the simple love I've had from my family and friends, for my interesting daily work and the unencumbered lifestyle I created for myself. I have room for this.
My path is the nice one. The one filled with friends who will smile when I buy their children books for their birthdays. Who will take me out, sometimes, when I call on a random night because I can't settle down. The path with peaceful holidays with my parents, and reasonable work promotions at reasonable times.I rest my case.
The path with nice men, who take me on nice dates where I learn their last names the minute we shake hands at the bar.
A path clear of a man with eyes that drift into some private sorrow. A path that will never lead to a man whose hands shake when he holds my face for a kiss that feels like falling.
The Story Guy is due out July 8th.
Karen Knows Best - "This was an intensely emotional read all around, for me."