Summer is nearly upon us, which means it’s time to start picking out your beach reading. Despite the name of this column being “Chick Literal,” I realize I haven’t actually talked about a lot of books (except those made into movies or TV shows). But no more! This week, I will actually talk about chick lit.
If you’re looking for a light, fun read to add to your summer list, I’m going to suggest The Big Love by Sarah Dunn. The book centers around Alison, a 30-something newspaper columnist who’s been desperately trying to get her boyfriend of four years to marry her. Instead, he walks out on her during a dinner party, and hilarity ensues. And by ‘hilarity,’ I mean a funny, honest take on breakups, dating, religion, and therapy.
What I liked most about the book was that it felt so relatable. Alison struggles with a lot of the same Big Questions I’ve been wondering about recently, such as:
Why is it so hard to do new things when you’re in a relationship?
After her boyfriend leaves her, Alison does all the standard Things You Do after a breakup – goes on blind dates, takes a language class, travels to Europe – and laments that these new experiences are something she never has while in a relationship because she’s busy doing things like picking out couches and going grocery shopping with her boyfriend. I know exactly how she feels. I ran my first marathon in March, and it is entirely and unfortunately accurate to say that this feat was only possible because of my single status. While others might have more willpower, I’m not willing to forgo date nights in favor of resting up and early rising for 20 mile runs, but when I’m single and don’t have anyone to brunch with on a weekend morning, I’m happy to get up and train. I recognize that it is entirely possible to do these things while also dating someone, but it’s extremely challenging for me.
Is it ever a good idea to date a coworker?
I can’t actually answer this one without spoiling part of the book, but I will say that I think the conclusion Alison comes to is the correct one.
Are all relationships just a competition?
At one point in the book, a minor character says to her boyfriend “I’m 38, we’re not married, I don’t have a baby, you win!” This vocalizes one of my worst fears, but also highlights a disturbing and pervasive stereotype: women want marriage and babies, men don’t, and relationships are just a constant fight to see who “wins.” Obviously there are many, many exceptions to this, but I still worry a lot about power games in relationships, as does Alison. Her belief is that whoever loves less has the power, and sometimes it seems like she’s right. It’s troubling, because relationships should be based on loving someone, not calculating and conniving and figuring out who loves whom more. Which leads to the Biggest question of all:
Is love enough?
I’m a romantic. A childhood diet of Disney movies and storybooks taught me that love conquers all, and an adolescence of sitcoms and romcoms confirmed this. In pretty much all shows or movies ever, at some point when a character is faced with a major relationship dilemma, someone will ask “But you love them, don’t you?” and if the answer is yes, everything seems to work out in the end. Life has taught me otherwise. You can love someone who (allegedly) loves you back all you want, but that won’t stop them from moving to San Francisco or Seattle or Santa Fe or somewhere else that you’re not. I want desperately to believe that love conquers all and leads to happy endings, but I think my best friend S said it best a few years ago, when she explained to me that finding The One was about “a combination of physical and emotional compatibility, timing, and general lack of douchebaggery/immaturity/lameness on both sides,” and this strategy has worked extremely well for her. Love is important, but whether or not it’s enough is something everyone has to decide for themselves, as Alison does by the end of the book.
If you’re looking to spend your summer days with a book that’s intellectual and earth shattering, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking to relax with a book that reads like a conversation you might have with your best friend, give The Big Love a shot.
Image via Barnes and Noble