November 2012, Women's Fiction
St. Martin's, $14.99, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 1250003504
It is not often upon finishing a book that I feel compelled to write the review. Usually I wait a little while and think about what worked and what didnít, but with books that move me, I have this compulsion to put words down on paper straightaway, in the hopes of conveying the emotions that enthralled me over the course of the book. This is one of those books.
Grace Barnum thinks she has her life all planned out. She has a solid, secure job editing textbooks. She is living with a successful, thoughtful and considerate man, and she has ďBig GreenĒ Ė her large leather purse that is filled with keys, wallet, cell, agenda, lip balm, hairbrush, hairband, big hair clip, tissues, book, iPod, bottle of water, ginger tea bags, tea light, bag of raw cashews, 70% dark chocolate bar, apple, black pen, red pencil, black Sharpie, red cardigan sweater, and a vinyl zipper bag filled with enough medicine to rival a home medicine cabinet. However, all the planning and preparation in the world doesnít prepare her for Tyler Wilke.
Tyler Wilke is smitten from the very first meeting when Graceís inventive practicality saves the day. New to the Big Apple, he is willing to do any work, even dog walking, but he is stymied when he finds a note from Graceís neighbor telling him not to get her newly groomed show dogs wet on their walk, when it is raining. Grace runs up to her apartment, grabs a spare umbrella and small baggies to double bag the dogs' paws. Tyler runs into Grace again that night when she comes into the piano bar where he has a gig singing. His mesmerizing talent is obvious to all that hear him, and he soon has his own groupies. But he is not interested in anyone but Grace. He finds it amusing that Grace corrects his grammar and has a gigantic brain behind her lovely face. But Grace is with someone else and she is not ready to admit that there is more to life than her insolated safe cocoon.
Over the next three years Grace and Tylerís world continues to converge as fate seems determined to pull them together even as Grace does her best to circumvent it. But Grace has to grow first. And just when they might have a chance, Tylerís career takes off and stardom beckons.
Grace is a wonderful character. She definitely is a product of her mother Juliaís upbringing. Her parents divorced when she was young. Her mother had no visible means of support so she worked as a waitress, and attended school, ultimately going to law school. That experience changed her mother, and even now Julia is always preaching to Grace about the need for independence and financial security. For the longest time Grace didnít see her father, but when she was thirteen her Mother amended her stand and encouraged the father-daughter relationship. Still Grace is afraid to love any man deeply.
Tyler is the opposite of Grace even to the degree of education. It is humorous watching Grace edit his notes for spelling and grammar, and correct his verbal use of lie and lay. Exuberant, high-spirited and enthusiastic about life, Tyler has tried to fit in, even going to community college for a year, but his passion is his music and now Grace is his muse. Included in the book are the lyrics to Tylerís songs as he expresses first bewitchment then frustration and finally love for the girl who isnít yet willing to take a risk. Of special note, the songs were actually written by the authorís songwriter husband.
While there are many things that keep the couple apart over the life of the book, toward the end the lack of communication and the big misunderstanding shows its ugly face. But you know, by this time I was so enamored with the whole story that it didnít faze me. Did I disagree with some of the choices that Grace made? Sure, but the author provided enough insight into her characterization that I understood why she was afraid to grasp what was right in front of her.
I loved the process of watching Grace grow and the development of the relationship over time. The whole story has a touch of realism and genuineness like the love affair in When Harry Met Sally, or a story told to you by your best friend of how she and her husband finally were in the right place, at the right time. Most of all I cared about Grace and Tyler.
Toward the end as I was reading, a single tear rolled down my check. It wasnít from sadness, just an expression of emotion so carefully developed by Ms. Sumnerís excellent storytelling that had to find some form of escape. All in all a lovely story.
-- Leigh Davis
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