Fact: I’ve never got back together (even for a moment) with an ex-boyfriend*. My motto is “The only break is a clean break”. This is pretty much my approach to everything – once I make a decision I don’t dwell on it, I forge ahead (for better or worse). Which is why I picked up Laura Dave’s novel, London is the Best City in America, a story about decisions and indecision.
The story begins with Emmy making what I considered a bold and decisive ‘clean break’ – she leaves her fiancée sleeping in a hotel room, the engagement ring on the pillow next to him, the unspoken words – ‘Is this as good as it gets?’ hanging in the air –
“.. Which left me with these constant questions – these awful, often avoidable questions – about what exactly I was willing to live without. In order to keep him. In order to not have to face the impossibility of another kind of life.”
Emmy stays in the small Rhode Island fishing town where she left her fiancée, gets a job in a tackle shop, and starts shooting a documentary about the wives of the fisherman who spend so much time waiting for their husbands to come home.
“It seemed like the norm in Narragansett to put your life on hold – so many wives always talking to me about what they would do if (and only if) they could get out of town, how differently they would live. Like Sue #2, for example – she’d always wanted to move to Montana; Nicole #4 – Michigan… But always somewhere landlocked, always somewhere opposite, as if the opposite held the answer.”
Fast forward a few years to a sweltering weekend in New York when Josh (Emmy’s older brother) is about to marry Meryl (a woman who Emmy loves like a sister – see * below). Of course, fictional wedding weekends are never meant to run smoothly and Josh has some last-minute doubts.
Some readers will find the whole wives doco/ Emmy’s lack of direction metaphor all too obvious. Oh well. I say take a relaxant and appreciate that this is chick-lit (good, well-written chick-lit) and not overly complex. Much of what I said about Dave’s latest release, The First Husband, stands – her dialogue is excellent, her style is light (but not fluffy), and her characters steer clear of the schmaltzy stereotypes that dominate chick-lit. The highlight here was the well-crafted sibling relationship between Emmy and Josh.
There’s deeper commentary about relationships scattered throughout the story –
“You can’t finish the things you weren’t supposed to start.” (I particularly like this and will be testing this theory).
“…I learned you have to choose. For better or for worse. You have to choose what your life is going to look like.”
which loops back to Emmy’s situation –
“I just don’t feel like I have good choices yet,” I said. “It makes it hard to give up the old ones.”
making it all-in-all, a top chick-lit pick.
4/5 Perfect for a light (but not brainless) reading break.
Despite the fact that one of the characters is a chef, there are few food references. The stand-out? A number of mentions of Josh and Meryl’s pineapple wedding cake. Pineapple wedding cake sounds a little odd to me (I don’t think they’d have a traditional pineapple upside down cake) but perhaps something like this Coconut Pineapple Cake would fit the bill?
* Once I delayed breaking up with a guy because I knew I would really miss his family (but not him so much).