Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: Broken Homes & Gardens by Rebecca Kelley

To be published:- April, 2015

Published by:- Blank Slate Press

Star rating:-

It is nigh impossible to banish the specter of sky-high expectations for a book which proudly advertises itself as the When Harry Met Sally for the millenial generation. That movie has been comfort food for the lonely and the lovelorn and the ones navigating the treacherous waters of friends-and-a-little-morerelationships for decades now. 

So potential readers and Nora Ephron fans, better be forewarned that the central characters here are not even pale imitations of Harry Burns and Sally Albright. Neither does Malcolm possess Harry's infuriatingly self-assured persona nor does Joanna manage to embody Sally's quirkiness and emotional vulnerabilities. More often than not they come off as people with no discernible character traits - they flicker in and out of focus like shadowy silhouettes in a hazily lit room. Their friendship is never fleshed out for the reader's benefit. In fact the only conversations they have are completely devoid of any wit or substance and merely border on good-natured flirtation.

Malcolm and Joanna meet at a party and make out without even exchanging proper greetings first. Malcolm flies out to Kazakhstan the very next day for 2 years with the Peace Corps during which time they maintain a correspondence through hand-written letters - yes you read that right - not emails or the phone because nothing puts a dampener on romance like modern technological innovations! When Malcolm shifts back to Portland after the designated time period, they keep hovering around each other, doing the mating dance without actually acting on their mutual attraction. They make bad decisions which would have been acceptable had they not appeared as deliberately manufactured unrealistic plot contrivances to delay their eventual union.

Long story short this is a bit like Harry Met Sally but not quite. It tries to sell the illusion of an unorthodox, fantasy love instead of conveying the truth of how relationships work in reality which brought Nora Ephron's creations universal adulation in the first place. However, on the plus side, there's no casual sexism here - Malcolm does not patronize Joanna like Harry aggressively dismisses Sally's opinions in the movie. (But then we are no longer in the 90s) It has all the trappings of a regular chicklit novel except without the mediocre writing and the abundance of idiotic cliches. And quite readable if not compulsively so.

As long as you are not craving for Nora Ephron-level insight into the quotidian comedy and heartbreak of relationships but light reading which does not require complete suspension of disbelief, Rebecca Kelley will keep you entertained.


**with thanks to Blank Slate Press and Netgalley for the ARC**


Also published on Goodreads and Amazon.

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