I am woefully late with this review. I finished reading it quite a while ago and am having to write this review from what lingers, more than a month later.
The novel alternates between Jeremy Best, a trusts and estates attorney who writes poetry under a pen name, and Spaulding Simonson, a 19-year old aspiring writer fresh from a stint in a mental hospital, as a friendship develops between them. In the span of about 250 pages, Greenland tackles unlikely love, work versus vocation, poetry, mortality, and the complicated tangle of family in a quirky, bright, and occasionally snarky manner.
Jeremy wants to write but he's also very good at his job. When the pretty and appealingly odd Spaulding -- daughter of his boss -- shows up in his doorway, his natural inclination is to put her off. But Spaulding -- who has been put off by everyone in her life -- is determined to get Jeremy's attention, especially when she discovers he's a well-regarded poet.
I will admit, when it became clear there was to be a romance between our 30-something hero and the 19-year old heroine, I initially couldn't stop a Liz Lemon-esque eye roll and "Oh, brother!". But once I got that out of my system, I found I didn't mind the burgeoning, awkward will-they-won't-they; both Jeremy and Spaulding were flawed creatures and faced intriguing obstacles, both of their own invention and from the people around them.
Greenland is a playwright and novelist who is also the producer and writer for HBO's Big Love, and the kind of bittersweet, dark humor that I've seen in the show also permeates (delightfully) this novel. His writing style differs between Jeremy and Spaulding, and while I didn't completely buy his articulation of a 19-year old woman, I loved his sheepish, creative, and conflicted Jeremy:
The field of trusts and estates presents ample opportunity for outright larceny. As clients are overtaken by the myriad indignities of age their minds will often cloud and the wily attorney, if endowed with a soupcon of unscrupulousness, can, with the mere adjustment of a comma, redirect amounts of money the size of the night sky. This was never my approach because greed is the lease attractive of the deadly sins. The truth is, I had never done anything that could remotely be construed as unethical much less illicit. (p146)
A fast read, accessible and fun, and perfect for the summer. A little knowing, a little sad, a lovely mix of literary and fluffy. For those new to Europa Editions, this is a great introduction to the kind of sophisticated, compelling stuff they release.