Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-40689-5
Contemporary Romance, 2009
You can judge this book by its cover. See those sunflowers, the picnic basket, the sandals, and the plate of cherries artfully positioned in a field of grass? Yes, Simple Wishes is like one of those daytime TV movies of the week things devoted to the trumpeting of the virtues of a small town over life in the evil city.
You have read a story similar to this one before, I’m sure. Adele Matin, our heroine, has lost everything in New York due to an unwise affair. She soon learned after her fall from grace that people in New York are all ephemeral fairweather friends who only use you for the good times, unlike people in small towns who uphold the real ideals of friendship and true love. Reading this story, I am so overwhelmed by the whole “folks in big cities are so nasty and shallow and fake – oh Jesus, save us all from those wretches!” propaganda here that I can only wonder what happened to the author the last time she visited New York. Did a naughty New Yorker flash her before mugging her or something?
At any rate, you know how it is in this kind of stories. A heroine from the big city who needs a place to retreat always inherit some kind of lovely home somewhere in the best small town in the world, and here, Adele returns to her late mother’s house, Grumble Knot. The house is in shambles, but naturally there are welcoming neighbors who help her get settled down. There is even a hot guy waiting to give her an infusion of small town spirit, Jay Westvelt. Naturally, he’s an artist who has opted to shun life in the big city and he is also the kind of person who is against materialistic people even as he conveniently enough has enough dough to keep himself in a comfortable lifestyle. Ever notice how those people in this kind of stories who tend to rail against greedy money-minded people are often never in need of money themselves?
Seriously, this story is so familiar and even clichéd that this book would be compulsory reading for anybody who wants validation for his or her existence in some backwater podunk town. Don’t be bitter about never getting to visit a big city – this book will assure you that you are so much better off where you are!
The only thing that causes this story to be a putrid kind of cliché is the heroine. This story doesn’t really have much conflict because the author has made the secondary characters in this story so gracious and welcoming to the heroine that Adele’s “recovery” is more like a vacation than anything else. The conflict arises from Adele’s constant and repetitious whining about her relationship with her late mother. She creates such a drama about the whole nonsense that I half expected to learn that Marge Matin pimped eight-year old Adele out to unwashed drunks for booze money every weekday and beat Adele senseless with a barbed wire on the weekends.
Instead, I learn that Marge is a cold bitch who didn’t shower Adele with much affection. Whoop-bee-doo. Take it from somewhere who has been there – we can’t choose our family members, but we can certainly get over such drama in time. But Adele just keeps flailing around like a drowning victim in her self-imposed misery, it’s hard to sympathize with her especially as the actual issues she faces do not warrant such an exaggerated showcase of melodramatic theatrics from her. She makes everything into a circus of misery, misreads every little gesture of Jay as evidence of how unlovable she is, and, oh god, she just keeps complaining and whining non-stop. The whole story ends up being a joyless therapy session, where I am forced to listen as Adele hogs the couch and just won’t stop acting as if she were the only person in this world who had unpleasant parents.
By page 16, I’d love to give her a ladder to help her get over herself. By page 150, I want to beat her senseless with that ladder. By the last page of Simple Wishes, I wish someone had used the ladder to beat me senseless by page 150 so that I wouldn’t have to deal with Adele so much. Small towns can keep Adele in all her monstrous self-pitying glory. Give me carbon monoxide poisoning anytime.