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Twu Wuv or Settling for Contentment and Security?

By Harper Jay | Books | May 18, 2010 |

By Harper Jay | Books | May 18, 2010 |

I started this book and loved it, I read more and hated it, I finished it and loved it. The net? I am not sure how I feel about it. I have suggested it to a few friends to get their take but I have heard nothing back. Perhaps they have the same issues with book discussions as I have with blogging about them.

The book starts with Peter Russell, some type of finance guy, aboard an airplane waiting to see who is seat mate will be. As I am wont to do, Peter is scanning the aisle hoping an attractive woman (I look for the men) will make her way towards him. In his mind she will be the perfect creature, they will exchange bon-mots for the duration of the flight and, naturally, fall in love. As it turns out, this dream creature does sit down next to him. She is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (never read it). This leads Peter to begin intrinsically debating the merits of bringing up a conversation with her concerning the novel. Peter’s internal monologue and resulting fears of making a fool of himself is part of the reason I loved the book. He is written so well, so real and his feeling about love seem to make so much sense. I am ahead of myself. They speak, they hit it off and she (Holly) gives him her number at baggage claim with the understanding that he will call her when is not busy with his meetings. As the pages went by following the receipt of her number I knew he was going to lose it and thus lose his chance. He did.

The book progresses and it is revealed that Peter’s best friend is married to Holly and Peter is engaged to a woman who he knows he doesn’t love, for he is still in love with Holly. It is not that he doesn’t love her (totally forgot her name) but that he doesn’t love her in the same way as Holly and this love for Holly is what seems to be the “real” thing to him. He ruminates on the fact that his fiancée loves him because he is “safe” and a good match financially, socially, and physically speaking. So he is willing to go through with it because he know it will be “fine.” Peter’s best friend is a bit of an asshole. We all know this guy, attractive, knows it, witty, knows it, a bit of liar and huge manipulator. He is cheating on Holly and Peter knows it but feels that there is nothing he can do because the dude is best friend and Peter perceives him as being better (I read this as more charismatic, more “that guy”) than Peter could ever be.

The book is divided into narratives from each of the main characters, the Fiancee, Peter, the Fiancee’s Father, the Fiancee’s Step Mother, and perhaps the best friend (it has been a long while since I read this). This provides wonderful insight into each of their motivations. I always find is fascinating when a male author can see so far into a woman’s psyche. At any rate, the major theme is love. Throwing caution to the wind and putting your heart out there if only to get it broken. The idea of settling because you don’t know what else to do, you are financially obligated to a person, you don’t want to leave the comfort of what is known to search for true happiness which comes from finding that true love. The idea of one person loving another more in a relationship and the troubles that always seem to arise as a function of that inequity. Additionally Collins examines the roles people take, the trophy wife to her aging yet wealthy husband. The not as pretty girl to the girl that seems to effortlessly have it all. The gregarious guy to the nice guy. I loved all of this and it all resonated very true to me.

As the book progresses the reader knows that disaster is imminent. This is what I hated. Presently, I am not sure why it drew such ire but at the time it really irritated me. I know that I kept turning the pages because I knew it was all going to fall apart and I needed to know when and how. This seems like a good quality in a story in retrospect. I think maybe I felt over manipulated at the time. I guess, now looking back, I really did love the book.

Isn’t it odd how books affect you in different ways depending upon what is happening in your own life? At least the good ones do.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Harper Jay’s reviews, check the blog.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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