REVIEW: Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins
Dear Ms. Higgins,
This isn’t quite a straight contemporary and yet is not all the way to Chick Lit. I was firmly in Maggie’s corner as she searches for Mr. Right but I gotta say, it’s sad when two priests join your family in trying to find blind dates for you. Yet Maggie stays upbeat during the search. She isn’t too picky, demanding Mr. Rich-and Handsome, nor does she sink to accepting Mr. Merely Breathing. It’s also the second story set in Maine I’ve read in the past month. Is this the new Idaho?
Thank you for not trying to catch the local accent in the writing. One character is portrayed with only the Maine accent but you didn’t pepper the rest of the book with more than an occasional “ayuh” thereby avoiding a major peeve of mine – the Faux Highland Brogue Syndrome.
Yet there’s a lot of local color and habits – “jeezum” and stuff about lobstermen, and the fact that they think 55 degrees is weather for short sleeves and suntanning. Really? And May is the beginning of warm weather – oh burrrr says the Southern Girl in me. The rocky coast, the sound of the sea lapping the harbor rocks, the Blessing of the Fleet, and the monument to lost sailors. All of this added a lot to my enjoyment of the book. I appreciate that the book stops short of making this small town too cutesy or the people too “colorful” just for laughs.
I can see how Maggie’s mother would want her daughters to have more opportunities than she did or the ones she felt she lost/gave up. And that she probably won’t ever see the diner as such a great accomplishment – she probably grew up with it and will always remember it as the more greasy food place it was before Maggie put so much time and work in its renovation into a classic diner. And people are strange and often unintentionally hurtful in how they relate to others, especially their own family. She ragged Maggie because she felt Maggie needed the most care.
I love the relationship among Maggie and her siblings. Jonah names his boat the “Twin Menace” after his sisters and they in return call him “Bunny Boy.” Jonah hauls friends over to watch Maggie’s satellite TV and laughs at her mix-ups yet they all stick with each other in the end.
I quite understand Christy’s response to hearing their parent’s news. Even though she’s an adult, it’s hard to hear this. Her husband Will is almost too good to be true. The scenes of Maggie baby-sitting her niece are touching without activating my gag reflex. But wouldn’t it be easy for people to tell the twins apart based on their hands?
I had a feeling about Colonel. Once I found out his age, I knew he’d never make it to the end of the book. Yet the sections with him and Maggie were among the most moving to me since I’ve also lost beloved pets to old age. I freely admit to sobbing through some of them.
I found most of the book to be very funny. Yet after a while, I got tired of Maggie always ending up as the romantic joke of the town. In fact, I was tired of it long before she was. And why does she still keep mooning on about Father Tim for over a year? And not just daydreams but losing her train of thought and still staring at him in public? Then there’s the fact, as Maggie eventually admits to herself, that he took a little bit of advantage of her during the year as a source of food for various church functions. I didn’t end up with very happy feelings towards Father Tim.
The book definitely needed more of Malone’s POV. Yes, I know it’s a first person book but I’ve read those and still managed to get to know a hero’s thoughts and plans and hopes more than here. Malone is starting to open up but he’s still much of an enigma at books end. And what was with the scene where he got so mad and threw her out? We get drips and drabs of his past life but there are still a lot of questions I have about Malone.
Chantal is known for her male conquests and tells Maggie she’s slept with a few particular men yet Maggie immediately jumps to conclusions and makes an assumption. I admit that it is odd whom Chantal does confide in but Maggie’s quite ready to condemn someone very quickly.
The sex scenes could be rated G yet the intensity between Maggie and Malone can still be felt. I agree with one Amazon reviewer who praised the hand cream rubbing scene. Who can’t fall for a guy who sees this need of Maggie’s and makes sure he takes care of it. Kind of like a guy who makes sure his heroine’s tires are in good shape or, as Malone does, comes to her rescue when Maggie is unexpectedly confronted with an old flame. Malone is a man who notices the small things about her as well as the big.
The ending with Skip is not the exhilarating “tell him off” that some authors would engineer yet it places Skip in his appropriate place. A “used to be” boyfriend who acknowledges he handled their ending badly and whose current life is probably not all it’s cracked up to be despite the seemingly wonderful outward appearance. He’s a car salesman and how truly glamorous is that?
It’s nice to see the character’s jobs being incorporated into the story and there are two great examples here. Maggie is a hardworking owner of a diner. We see her doing her job in public and private, her concerns to improve the diner, her efforts to garner more attention for it. With Malone, it’s his skills as a lobsterman which take prominent place. He keeps his boat clean and in order, knows how to pilot it, is known as the first man out of the harbor and the last one back in.
Maggie suffers from a lot of the pratfalls expected of a Chick Lit heroine (her blind dates are hysterically funny – the Groin, the lobster decimator and animal mind reader, the grandfather) yet her inner struggles with her jealousy over her sister’s perfect life, husband and child, ground her and make her a much more sympathetic heroine than the usual one found in this genre. It’s not pea green envy so much as a woman wondering what’s so hard about finding a nice man who wants to settle down, raise a few children, live a good life with a loving partner.
“Catch of the Day” is an emotional and yet quick read. I was glued to it and managed to read it in one day and this was after spending a little bit of time finishing up another book. Thanks to Jane for introducing me to your work. B+