Twisted Knickers Publication, $2.99, ISBN 978-0-9910027-5-7
Contemporary Fiction, 2018
I’m sorry, but I have no idea how to properly Cheryl Anne Gardner’s Knowing Joe. This is a novella that is all about the feels – twelve short chapters of internal monologue of a protagonist referred to simply as Girl, as she muses about mostly her relationship with her friend, Matt, who wants something more from her, along with other issues like love, life, superheroes, and a bench. Yes, really.
Mind you, there is a story here, and it’s actually a very romantic one in a raw, down to earth way. Matt is quite a dreamy hero, if you ask me, although I suspect that it isn’t the author’s intention to make him that way, heh. He’s not some alpha male or larger than life romantic figure, and yes, from the things he says to Girl, he gets to me in a good way. He can be crude, rude, and unexpectedly insightful and poignant at times. There are some romance heroes in fiction that make me smile but at the same time, I know that they are fiction. Matt, though, I think I probably know some guys like him before. Of course, they can be quite pretentious and annoying in a soy-latte, I-own-a-hip-lit-bookstore-in-San-Francisco way, but Matt here is fine. Maybe it’s because I don’t have to deal with for more than it takes to read a novella. Hmm. Anyway.
This is Girl’s story, of course, and I like her. At times a manic pixie girl-ish with her train of thoughts, and at other times more broody and inward-looking, she too would have been an annoying navel gazer in another author’s hands. Here, though, the author plays me like a professional violinist – I find myself nodding along to Girl, thinking at times that I understand what she’s feeling, smiling at other times.
I think that’s why Knowing Joe works like a charm – the author has this apparently effortless knack to draw me right into her characters’ heads and get me to understand what they feel and what makes them tick, even if I personally don’t relate to these characters much. This is a find kind of vicarious head trip, and the deceptively rambling narrative is actually tightly constructed to enhance the whole “Wow, I’m really inside that woman’s head… and you know, it’s actually quite a nice place to be!” feel of the novella. Remarkably, the author does all this without making the whole story feel pretentious or deliberately opaque.
The author doesn’t dabble in the romance genre, and I suspect she doesn’t want to be, but after reading Knowing Joe, I suspect that she can easily serve up some sweet romantic stories on a good day. After all, this one is one of the cutest, quirkiest, and sweetest romantic tales I’ve read in a while.