REVIEW: Which Brings Me To You by Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott
Dear Ms. Baggot and Mr. Almond:
Jane and John meet at a wedding and begin to have a frisky encounter in the coat closet. John pulls back and puts the stops on the sex. Whether he does this out of fear, conscience or truly a belief that something could come of a relationship with this woman, is still not clear at the outset. Whatever the motivation, John suggest that they write letters to each, get-to-know-you letters in the extreme where in they each confess their biggest failures.
Each letter is a mini story and letter by letter you learn more about Jane and John and the people who have shaped them. This story reminds me a bit of a good friend of mine who stopped drinking and stopped dating men who drank. She said she never realized what an honest relationship was without the artifices that alcohol tends to create. This love story strips away the facades that people front in an effort to protect themselves from hurt. John and Jane employ different mechanisms of self defense from avoidance to choosing the wrong person to fall in love with.
Even in the letter writing, in some delicious irony, the barriers are still there only the barriers are “honesty” and “self confession” because the ephemereal relationship the two characters have built could fall apart once the facade of distance is put aside. John’s voice was funnier, seemingly more open in the beginning but it is Jane who carried us to the end. Hers was the bravest, the most in keeping with the challenge set forth.
I am on a book high from reading. I am inspired to write more letters, to be more honest. To wax poetic about your book rising above the corporeal pages and transcending into an entity which reflects souls. Admittedly people have to really like your voices else it is just two very self absorbed, not very nice people trying to one up the other on how miserable and pathetic their lost loves were. To some degree, the letter writing served as the vehicle for one to outdo the other in confessing more and more degrading acts of love. As John states:
“But you have to admit that there’s something fundamentally phony about this arrangement. It plays to our egotism, our need to state the case as we like, avoid the tough questions, boss around our own history. The discourse of love, though, doesn’t run on parallel tracks. It collides and makes a big mess.”
It’s a precarious high beam challenge that stayed upright for me but may not work so well for others. A-.