Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review: Nearlyweds


Nearlyweds (2006) by Beth Kendrick

Back Jacket: Everyone says the first year of marriage is the hardest...but what would you do if you found out that you were never really married in the first place? In this irresistible romantic comedy from award-winning author Beth Kendrick, three wildly different women form an unlikely friendship as they try to decide whether they'd do it all again. They've had the white dresses and the fancy receptions. But now that the honeymoon's over, Stella, Casey, and Erin have each had to face some hard truths about the men they've married and the lives they've chosen. So when the news breaks that the pastor who presided over their weddings failed to file a few critical pieces of paper, none of these newlyweds are rushing down to the courthouse to legalize their vows. Instead, the brides share their hopes, disappointments, and secrets while grappling with that pivotal question: Should they stay or should they go?

Review: While the set-up sounds intriguing, it also puts this book firmly in the stereotyped category of "women's fiction" or "chick-lit" (whatever that means, I hate those labels). Nearlyweds is marketed as a rom-com, but what they really mean is that it is a dramedy about women learning how to love themselves, one another, and how to be happy. The problem is that it's done in the trite, overused way where the women eat ice cream, cry, laugh, and then "empower" themselves by buying stuff they don't need. While at first it may seem the women represent a wide variety of traits--and buck traditional expectations (one is not good at cooking and is busy with her job as a doctor, another wants children more than anything in the world)--it ultimately serves readers the same superficial grrl power of Sex and the City. It's all the same old bullsh*t dressed up as feminism. There are ways it can be read as woman-positive, but nothing about it is subversive or powerful. I should mention, of course, that this book obviously isn't the only one to commit these crimes, but it's the latest I've read and I'm always so moderate about things that I decided it was time to take a strong stance.

{SPOILERS}

Furthermore, the writing itself did not stand out and the whiny insecurity of the characters--vacillating between anger and self-doubt--got tiresome quickly. I found myself entirely unsympathetic toward the male characters. One was blinded by the evil, manipulative deathgrip of his mother (yet another instance where older women are bad women), the other repeatedly lied to his wife, and the last was reluctant to commit--and upset that his girlfriend proposed instead. There's not much to recommend these fellows throughout the entire book. Until, of course, they each in turn commit the last-second "heroic" act to prove themselves and win the ladies' love. At which point the women happily comply with their boyfriends'/husbands' appeal for marriage/re-marriage and discover that it didn't matter how much they learned about themselves during their separation, they still weren't complete without a man.

Conclusion: I give this book the dreaded 2/5 (authors all around the world fear my hand of judgment*) for all of the reasons above. Average writing, unsympathetic characters, and romance so unfeeling and unbelievable that it didn't matter. The story would have been more powerful if the characters had evolved in ways that mattered. But, um, none of them did.

-Bea

*What I mean to say is that there are no authors in the world who fear my hand of judgment.

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