Feb 07

After Isaactown by Ward Jones

Synopsis: After Isaactown is the story of attorney Norm Arnstein, his lingering affection for his sister-in-law, and a kindling romance with Harriet, a woman he meets in the Lincoln Center after fleeing a rainstorm.  After Isaactown delves into expectations and illusions, weaving a complex tale of intrigue, power and desire.

My Review: I have very mixed feelings about this book, because while I liked the premise of the love story between Norm and Harriet, I disliked the majority of the characters and I was frustrated throughout much of the book.

When I say I like the premise of this love story, what I mean is that I do think it’s cute for a middle aged lawyer finally finding love.  I adore that the characters don’t see any obstacles with their age difference, varying positions in life, or that Harriet has a young daughter.  I think a message to take away from this book is that love can really be found everywhere, and that’s a great message in any form.

Norm meets Harriet one rainy afternoon when he mistakenly thinks she is Bev, his brothers wife for whom he has always had feelings.  Even though the woman does not turn out to be Bev, Norm is brave enough to talk to her, and this eventually springs into a romance between the two of them.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really know how I’ll react to something if I’m not actually in the situation, so I can’t fully say what I would have done if I were Harriet, but I’m guessing that the situation would be doomed from the start if it were me in her position.  See, they only exchange conversation, not numbers, but Norm tracks down all the Harriet Anderson’s in Brooklyn until he finds her.  While this may seem sweet and romantic to some, it comes off as stalkery to me.  I guess this is why I’m not listed in the phone book – I don’t want random dudes calling me.

That aside, Norm is very nice to Harriet, but this is where my dislike for characters comes in – I don’t really know what Harriet sees in Norm.  He’s impatient, elitist, entitled, and seems to lack much social grace.  Granted, he is nice to her, but when I’m dating someone, I like to look at how they treat everyone, not just me.

Also, I couldn’t really see the difference between Norm, the protagonist and love interest, and some of the other men in the book.  As an example, somewhere along the line we are reading a scene between Harriet and the dean of her school, Herb.  Herb would very much like to date Harriet, so he takes her out to dinner.  But I kid you not, I was half way through this chapter before I realized she was having dinner with Herb and not Norm.  It’s my own fault, I just didn’t read the opening paragraph of the chapter as closely the first time around so I got confused.  But Herb is portrayed as this awful guy who is impatient and doesn’t actually care about what Harriet is saying.  And the only way I figured out it wasn’t Norm was because they were talking about working together at the school.  It’s a little difficult to keep characters straight when both of them have internal dialogs that essentially boil down to “He/she was telling me much more than I cared to know and I just wanted to get out of there.”

There were times when I came close to feeling bad for Norm, who has to repeatedly leave town for legal disputes for his company, but even in those situations I kept thinking “dude, if you had only handled that a little more diplomatically, it would have gone better.”  Maybe I just don’t know what it’s like to be a legal professional.  But I do know what it is to be a human being, and things tend to go easier when you placate people a little.

Other small details were irritating to me too, like saying what each wine is by the full name, and describing every car by the make and model.  I know that lawyers have money, I don’t need to be told throughout the book that Norm drives a Mercedes, or that Harriet has an Audi, or what car one of them parked next to.  And unless I am at a wine tasting, I don’t want to know what wine is being served beyond it’s color.  These are the kinds of minute details that just lose me as a reader.

Overall, I had higher hopes for this book and they sadly weren’t met.  I think I would have liked it more if there were fewer paragraphs about Norm out of town, and more focus on what Harriet’s life was like.  More description of their relationship and how they fall in love, how passionate they are for each other.  I didn’t see Norm falling in love with Harriet so much as losing his obsession for Bev, which is a bit sad.  I simply hoped for more.

Read this book if: I don’t think this was a horrible book by any means, I did finish it and it was a relatively quick read.  I just think that on the whole, I was not the right audience for it.  The romance elements of the story seem to be designed for a reader with tamer sensibilities – there’s barely any kissing, and no sex scenes at all.  The language used to describe things was also reminiscent of more conservative talk, so I think this would be better for someone looking for a mellow, clean love story.

My Rating: 2/5 – Did I fall asleep?

Full Disclosure: I received this book for free from PR By the Book.  This has not affected my review in any way.  I was likewise not compensated for this review.