My first finished book of the new year! I really liked this. I found it to be a story I read very quickly-a combination of finding it compelling and was curious about how it would work out and also liking the format. I’ve tagged this “epistolary”, though it’s not really. It’s a combination of narrative, google search results, Facebook chats, and emails. At dinner Friday night with my friend Mary Lynn I said I was reading this and she said she’d be curious to see how I responded to it. She had started it, peeked at the end, and not finished it. Having now finished it I can say that I really liked it, was totally satisfied with the ending, and guess that Mary Lynn didn’t like the ending because it was either happy or she found it predictable. Personally I thought it was very sweet and emotionally satisfying.
Alice Buckle and her husband William have been married just about 20 years. Her husband works in advertising and Alice did for a while, too, but drama was where her heart was. She staged one play to disastrous reviews and now teaches drama at the local elementary school. Things have been a bit distant between them and Alice is feeling not great about herself or her marriage, so when she finds an email in her spam folder inviting her to participate in an anonymous marriage study she signs up. She is soon revealing all kinds of things about herself to “Researcher 101”. What I liked about this was that you saw Alice’s answers, but not the questions. Since Alice was a playwright she has a knack for writing and her scenes, complete with dialogue, seem a natural fit for her character. [Spoiler:……….there is an appendix at the end that lists all the questions. I was kind of bummed to discover this because a)I liked guessing what the questions might be and b)I had just finished the book and wasn’t about to page back through and match up the questions and answers. So I realize I’m missing out a bit there, but oh well.] As things go on Alice finds herself opening up about her feelings and her marriage and finds the anonymity wonderfully unburdening. Unfortunately, the anonymous listening ear of Researcher 101 becomes extremely appealing to her and she finds herself flirting with him. I liked seeing Alice’s whole life and not just the marriage part–her worries that her son is gay, her relationship with her best friend (a lesbian about to get married), her work angst. William has lost his job which makes things even more difficult at home and even more appealing online. I found a lot to relate to in this book and liked all the characters and I did very much like how it all ended.