Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: Too Good to be True

By Gail Allison
In “Too Good To Be True,” Kristan Higgins explores relationships, what that magic something is that keeps them together, and what happens when it disappears, or worse, never was.

Grace Emerson is a history teacher whose passion is the civil war. She thought she had it all with her fiancé Andrew, but a week before their wedding, Andrew tells Grace in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t think this marriage is right for them, and he walks out. Grace realizes in retrospect that Andrew and Natalie (her younger sister) felt “the big kablammy” when they first met, and they end up getting together. Natalie confronts Grace at a family event, wanting assurance that Grace is at ease with this turn of events. To smooth things over, Grace turns to a defense mechanism that she has perfected over the years: she makes up a boyfriend for herself.

Wyatt Dunn is everything Grace could want in a man: he’s tall, dark, and handsome. He’s a pediatric surgeon. He sends her flowers. He takes her out for romantic dinners. Too bad he doesn’t exist...but even Grace gets pulled into her own story after awhile. She doesn’t want to be the poor little single girl, so she keeps up the story of Wyatt. Unfortunately, her older sister Margaret and her best friend Julian see right through the story. That doesn’t stop Grace, though. When she meets (read: clobbers with a field hockey stick) the hunky new neighbour (with a sketchy past, of course), she’s quick to let him know that she’s seeing Wyatt, and that she really thinks he might be The One. Wyatt’s “presence” doesn’t stop Grace from noticing, spying on, and ultimately getting together with the neighbour, though.

The plot does tend to drag on in spots. At 379 pages (hardcover), I’d estimate that Grace could have acted on her attraction to Callaghan O’Shea (the neighbour) about 50 pages earlier. She seemed to spend an awful lot of time mooning over him and wanting to get closer, but then convincing herself otherwise. She does seem to grow in this book (hooray!) because at the end she finally finds the guts to be truthful not only to herself, but also to her family (for the most part). I wish, wish, wish she had gotten it together and gone after Callaghan a bit sooner though. I found myself rolling my eyes after she had talked herself out of it for the umpteenth time, and putting the book down in irritation.

One thing I must note: writing in first person is not easy. Reading in first person is generally not easy either, and Ms. Higgins does a masterful job of letting us into Grace’s head comfortably. That being said, the Civil War era catchphrases could have been dialled down a bit. I can only read the phrase “God’s nightgown!” so many times before I start to feel my lips pursing in disapproval. I know she’s a Civil War buff and all, but she does still live in the present. You wouldn’t think her current-day friends would let her use such a ridiculous, antiquated turn of phrase so freely. But that’s just my two cents.

Grace’s Civil War enthusiasm is infectious, and her relationship with her sisters is portrayed realistically (there’s the overachiever sister, the “perfect” sister, and then Grace, the doormat), as is her journey to finally standing up for herself. There is a scene at the end where Grace finds her...ahem...courage, and finally becomes true to herself, that made me want to cheer, but at times it was a tough road to get to that point. I was pleased that not everything came up roses for Grace, and it was nice to see a protagonist who had real issues, as opposed to feeling like the world was against her all the time. Overall, “Too Good To Be True” is a nice light read, and that one scene at the end was definitely worth an extra 50 pages of Grace’s waffling over Callaghan. Read it...you’ll see what I mean.

More by Kristan Higgins:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the dog on the cover..... :-) The review, too, of course! :-)