Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: Love Walked In

Sometime, somehow, I logged into a page revealing Jen Hatmaker's favorite books. Jen Hatmaker is a fairly famous Christian blogger. Several of my friends link to her posts from time to time on Facebook. Perhaps this is how I came upon her list. This book, Love Walked In, was listed in her favorite fiction reads.

I wanted to like it a lot. I really did. I mean, Jen Hatmaker liked it, so why wouldn't I, right? Well, I didn't like it. Sorry. Just my opinion.

Why didn't I like it? I think the primary reason was an irritation with the central main character, Cornelia. I didn't like her name. I didn't like her perspectives. I didn't like her constant references to classic movies, ad nauseum. But, most of all, I didn't care for her "voice." It was downright annoying. The story is told from two perspectives, alternating between first-person narration from Cornelia and third-person narration about Clare, the young girl she encounters in the story. The chapters from Cornelia's perspective are meant to be a stream-of-consciousness style of narration. But, frankly, her brain processes hurt my brain.

Here's the story in a nut-shell: Cornelia Brown is an underachiever, working at a coffee shop in Philadelphia. In walks a stunning man, comparable to Cary Grant, and Cornelia is swept away by his beauty and swept into his life. Then, one day, he shows up with an eleven year old daughter, Clare, in tow. As Cornelia realizes that she doesn't, in fact, love the father, she also realizes that she desperately loves the daughter and wants, more than anything, to help her out of her horrid situation with an ill mother who has basically disappeared off the face of the earth.

The story just grated on my nerves from the very beginning. The shallow sense of being drawn to people who are physically beautiful (which happens twice for Cornelia - once with Martin Grace and then with her sister's husband, Teo). The absurdity of acceptance of Cornelia ending up with her sister's husband. The brash things Clare encounters with her mother (both advice on sex and the image of her mother having sex). The blithe, casual discussion about how the earth didn't really move for Cornelia when she had sex with Martin. The neat tidy ending with Clare returned to the care of her mother, Viviana, and Cornelia paired with her heart's desire, Teo. I just was annoyed.

I could get behind the basic story line. I did feel for the young girl as she attempts to deal with a mother spiraling out of control in the throes of bi-polar. I could relate to Cornelia's desire to rescue and save the young girl and make a new life for the two of them, together. I could accept Cornelia's hesitations over the father who fails to be there for his only daughter. Even Clare's valiant efforts at keeping life under control were understandable and to be commended. But, I just couldn't get behind all the rest of the claptrap aspects of this story.

Perhaps it was simply a matter of built-up expectations. I expected it to be a really great book. It just wasn't up my alley. Several others on Hatmaker's list have made my own favorites listings (The Light Between Oceans, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand).  Of course, she also presented Little Bee as a favorite and I disliked that one, as well. I guess it just proves the flip side of that old adage: One man's trash is another man's treasure. So, one person's treasured book is another person's disdained book. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

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