|"Perfect on Paper" by Janet Goss|
Happy Valentine's Day! Let's celebrate by discussing a tolerable love story.
Dana Mayo is a crossword puzzle maniac.
Well, she's a bit of a maniac in general. "Perfect on Paper" by Janet Goss kicks off with Dana attempting to get back in touch with a former boyfriend-- a man 20 years her senior with whom she had an affair years ago.
It doesn't go well. (She vomits in his daughter's shoes).
Finally deciding to move on with her life, Dana starts spending time with Hank, a contractor and proud pig owner, and Billy, a young and notoriously tricky crossword constructor.The first half of the novel suffers greatly because of the first person narrative. In her narration, Dana acknowledges her personality flaws but doesn't regard them as areas that need improvement.
Dana readily admits (and frequently demonstrates) that she is judgmental, obsessive and short-sighted. A third-person narrative would have been able to draw attention to the flaws while laughing at the character's ridiculous actions and rationaizations.
The first time this novel made me laugh was on page 67, just after a character said "algoraphobia" instead of "agoraphobia:"
"Under normal circumstances, I might have felt a tremor of jealousy, but now all I could think about was the word 'algoraphobia,' and whether it would be manifested by a fear of algorithms, or of the former vice president."
From there the novel improves, largely because of the more frequent appearances off Billy (W.W.W.) Moody.
The book's thematic mystery, the identity of a frequent hang up caller, is a bit of a letdown. Not only is the caller fairly easy to predict, but the explanation is a halfhearted and illogical.
Here comes my biggest pet peeve-- This novel, much like other love triangle novels of it's kind, saves the big "who ends up with whom" reveal for the last page.
We get it. It's a love story in which a woman is trying to decide who she wants to end up with. But, as readers, we've sat through 300+ pages of "whose it gonna be" tension. The least the author could do is offer a chapter length glimpse into life after the decision is made.
It's a pleasant read with a slow start. Just for fun, the final page includes a crossword, in case the plot awakened the word nerd in you.
(Confession: I almost attempted it, but the clues still seemed like gibberish to me while I was looking at the answer key).
This book won't earn a spot on anyone's "favorites" list, but it is a light and generally pleasant way to pass a February afternoon.