The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers

The Story Guy - Mary Ann Rivers
"The only thing worse than smug 
married couple;
lots of smug married couples."
-Bridget Jones's Diary
Helen Fielding

In some ways, reading this novella reminded me of the dinner party scene in the film Bridget Jones's Diary. Bridget Jones attends a dinner party hosted and filled with seemingly happy (and color-coordinated) married couples, then spends an uncomfortable evening fielding questions and comments about her love life:  "You really ought to hurry up and get sprugged up, you know, old girl. Time’s running out. Tick Tock.”; “Seriously now, the office is filled with single girls in their thirties. Fine physical specimens, but they just can’t seem to hold down a chap.”; “Yes, why is it that there are so many unmarried women in their thirties these days, Bridget?”

Uncomfortable silence.

And this is how the story comes across. There was a near constant emphasis on, and by, the heroine on being thirty-something and alone. She even refers to herself as a spinster. And everyone is worried.

Perhaps it was an unintentional result of clumsy storytelling, but I couldn’t help feeling unease at what seemed to be an underlying message that if you are thirty-something, or "a woman of a certain age" as the heroine kept referring to herself and other women like her, that your life is not fulfilled, and you are doomed to a lonely existence, unless you are in a committed romantic relationship.

"There isn't even a woman-of-a-certain-age cat to slide out of a windowsill and greet me. Not even a goldfish to swish its tail and surface for flakes. There isn't even a fucking plant. Why don't I own a fucking plant?"

I shake my head at you, "woman-of-a-certain-age cat" phrase.

Perhaps when you place all of this in context, since finding love is the initial premise of the story, it all seems benign. But, when juxtaposed with other things, I felt a disturbing theme emerge. Every single character that is involved with Carrie in some way is in a relationship and is exuberantly, deliriously happy, and because of it, leading happy, fulfilled lives. And having babies. Carrie's best friend is considering having a child, and the only other woman who makes a brief appearance in the story is pregnant.  

Hey, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to find love, and wanting to fill that need. And I commend the heroine for unabashedly admitting to herself that love is an important piece of the puzzle of her life. The problem is that for Carrie, it seems to be the only piece worth having. And her life seems to fall apart from the lack of it. 

And I think this is part of the reason the romance did not work for me. Both Carrie and Brian come across as two very lonely, needy, sometimes desperate, lost people seeking comfort, solace and meaning in the arms of another person. Their love just wasn't believable.  

Other thoughts:

❖I didn't feel any chemistry between Carrie and Brian. They were just so bland. Even their dialogue was bland and boring.

❖The sexy times were unsexy. They were written in a sometimes awkward and slightly cringeworthy way. It wasn't purple prose, but just certain words and phrasing used that seemed sort of odd and unsexy.

❖The writing itself is lovely, but at times felt overdone. The poetic language sometimes bled into the dialogue, making it seem unrealistic. In truth, everything seemed a bit unnatural. The writing seemed to be trying very hard to elicit emotions from the reader--I could feel the author's intent bleeding through the story. There is even the inclusion of a very contrived scene (view spoiler)(SPOILER ALERT)   [where Brian's disabled sister, who just happens to visit Carrie's library, has an accident.]

❖Brian's reasoning for not getting involved wasn't persuasive enough for me. He also comes across as somewhat whiney, and a little pathetic.

❖All is resolved too quickly and easily. In fact, the resolution at the end makes Brian's initial angst and reasoning seem even less persuasive, and even more manufactured.

In the end, I decided on a rating of 3 stars. While I didn't love this story, I didn't necessarily hate it either. It was beautifully written, and I can appreciate what it was trying to accomplish. 

Final Rating: 3 stars