Thursday, February 11, 2010

Put Down That Harlequin Romance: Love Books Worth Reading

Love is in the air these days, and I'm here to help you find a good love story to curl up with on Valentine's Day. So many people think of love stories as cheap paperback books with a half-dressed vixon swooning in the arms of a chisled pirate...or Revolutionary soldier...or French aristocrat. But really there are so many other books about love to read. Here's my V-Day run down on the myriad tyes of love celebrated in literature.

Love That's Too Close for Comfort
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates is one of the most gut-wrenching love stories I've ever read. You'll find yourself cringing at Frank and April's bitter and biting insults, hoping to God you've never sounded as vindictive while fighting with a partner...but knowing you probably have. The horrifyingly realistic portrait of a marriage in shambles makes you feel like a fly on the wall of a broken home. As a reader, you have to decide if the pain and heartbreak that comes along with reading this gritty, tragic love story is worth the payoff of having read something substantail and amazingly well-written. And I can assure you it is.

Love with Man's Best Friend
If you're feeling scorned by love with people (or just extra loving toward Fido), turn to your dependable furry friend and read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This wonderful story about the ups and downs of family life is told from the perspective of the loyal dog, Enzo, and will make you certain that no one could love you better than the dog who wags his tail with excitement when you get home from work.

Forget love letters and happy endings--Sideways by Rex Pickett is a man's man kind of a book. This story about best friends on a bachelor weekend is a drunken romp through wine country, full of random hookups, wild boar hunting, and enough Pinot Noir to convince you it's the only wine worth drinking. Through it all, Miles and Jack watch each other's backs and cover for each other's (incredibly stupid) mistakes, and by the end, you'll find this crass story about platonic guy-love more than a little endearing.

Love Hurts (and so will you)
Move over, Lady MacBeth. The newest femme fatale on the block is Serena by Ron Rash, and she is a force to be reckoned with. After marrying the owner of a logging business in 1930s North Carolina, Serena arrives on the scene, training eagles to do her bidding, banishing her husband's illegitimate child, and getting rid of anyone who stands in her way. She makes the perfect compliment to her already ambitious husband and the passionate pair expands their empire, until he makes an unforgiveable mistake and has to face her consequences.

Run Around Love
I'm not a fan of adultery in real life or in fiction, but my book group just read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan about the affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and the wife of one of his clients, Mamah Borthwick, and I have to recommend it. You might disagree with the couple's selfish decisions, but the consequences and repercussions of the path they take will stick with you for a long time. I'll leave to you to judge or applaud their actions.

Generational Love
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett is about a woman who doesn't want to be a mother, so she leaves her husband and goes to a home for unwed women who plan to give their babies away. But when the time comes, Rose rethinks her decision, keeps her baby, and stays on at the home as a cook. All is not well and good, however, because the aloof Rose holds her daughter at bay and keeps her secrets and her love at a distance. This book is such an enjoyable read because it features a woman with real and conflicting emotions, but it's devoid of the cloyingness present in some other mother-daughter stories.

Love that's Satisfying Time After Time After Time
My all-time favorite love story is The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which you probably already know about. It's the story of love over time, and time travel, and two flawed but in-love individuals. I never get tired of this book, no matter how many times I read it.

So Happy Valentine's Day to you and all your loved ones--pets, angry spouses, mistresses, daughters, and friends!


1 comment:

ebbye said...

I read the book written by the point of view of the dog Enzo and loved it. It made me cry because there is such a bond between man and dog and Enzo's observations were very interesting. It is truly a book for an animal lover and it is also true that animals leave their footprints in your soul; this book was amazing.