Contemporary, Fiction

Twenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

When my favorite sales rep for my favorite publisher tells me that I absolutely must read a book and that I will absolutely love it, well, I tend to listen to her most ardently.

Synopsis

From the Inside Flap:
Daniel Mayrock’s life is at a crossroads. He knows the following to be true:

  1. He loves his wife, Jill, more than anything.
  2. He only regrets quitting his job and opening a bookshop a little (maybe more than a little).
  3. Jill wants to start a family.
  4. The bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent. Dan doesn’t know how to fix it.
  5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble.
  6. Then Jill gets pregnant.

This is the story about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances. He’s tired of feeling ordinary; he’s sick of feeling like a failure. And he doesn’t want to live in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband. Dan wants to do something special… and maybe even dangerous.

Dan begins to puzzle through a plan – it helps that he’s an obsessive list-maker – but options are limited and his fears for the future keep growing… His story, told in Dan’s unique, hilarious, and heartfelt voice, reveals a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to do anything for the love (and soon-to-be-new love) of his life.

Review

I’d like to start this review with a bit of a caveat. I found out after reading the ARC back in July, that the publication of Twenty-one Truths About Love was delayed by a little over a month. While this can mean a great deal of things (in this case most likely the chronology of the lists and timeline needed to be corrected), it leads me to want to say that I have not read the finished copy and I do not know if the things that have irked me greatly about this book have been changed or edited.

The fact that I didn’t read the finished copy and I knew of the publication delay made me hesitant to write this review in the first place, but as it is a book I read this year, and have been asked about it often in the store in the past few weeks, I figured I might as well. Initially, our sales rep put the advance copy for this book into my hands, telling me how much she loved it and how she thought I would enjoy it as well.

I started reading it over the summer, intending only to read about 50 pages, or enough to write a blurb and nomination for an Indie Next nomination (I’ll go into Indie Next at some point…) and I wound up finishing the book in one sitting, turning the last page shortly before midnight. Thankfully, as a book of lists, it’s a quick read. And for the fact that I hadn’t read much fiction this year up to that point, and since, so I was inclined to finish it since it managed to hold my attention.

And at first, I liked it well enough. I don’t really read books by men with male characters written in (sort of) first person. But, the little feminist in me said that I had to make my decisions about books about men by men from actually reading them. And it was particularly interesting to me to delve into this particular man’s thought process. As the book progressed, however, and Dan’s plan on how to obtain some cash to settle his cash flow problem became clear, I began to cringe. And while it is an impetus for a change in his character, I found myself getting more and more disgusted by his behavior.

His insecurities manifest themselves in behavior that I can only describe as toxic. It’s challenging for me to hold this book up as a recommendation when I cannot abide by his behavior. And I say to myself, isn’t that a bit sexist, Sarah? But while characters and protagonists should be flawed, if they’re going to be the hero, which Dan clearly wants to be, shouldn’t he be thinking a little bit harder about how he’s behaving? If what is, basically, his journal, doesn’t include any introspection, what’s the point?

Again, I offer my caveat. I didn’t read the finished copy, so I don’t know if anything I just complained about has been changed, though I doubt it. And so I don’t know if this review is really any help to anyone, but I hope some may find it useful.

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Twenty-one Truths About Love is the perfect gift for…
people who like a lighthearted read they don’t have to think too hard on, or anyone who likes novels in odd formats, from epistolary novels, to other formats like lists.

Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through IndieBound or your local independent (most of us received signed copies from the publisher!), in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.

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