Monday, January 21, 2008

Beginner's Greek - James Collins

Beginner’s Greek
James Collins
Little, Brown and Company

Fiction/ Romantic Comedy

Peter Russell is a young man in his early twenties who works in the corporate finance department of a Wall Street firm. He’s had relationships, but he’s never been in love. On a flight from New York to Los Angeles, he’s seated next to a beautiful young woman named Holly. She reads Thomas Mann (which is good, because The Magic Mountain maybe the one ‘serious’ book that Peter can actually discuss) she teaches math to high school students in the Dominican Republic, and she’s on her way to visit her sister’s new baby. The two make a real connection, and before they part at baggage claim, Holly gives Peter her phone number.

Peter arrives at his hotel, as expected; makes several business calls, as expected; and then realizes that he has lost that crucial piece of paper. This is not how his romantic fantasy of true love was supposed to end.

Cut to several years later. Peter is still working for the firm, as expected; and he’s engaged to Charlotte, a nice woman, as expected. He participates in the wedding plans and gives the correct – expected – responses to each new crisis. He continues his career. But he has never forgotten Holly and that missed opportunity. He can’t help but feel that there should be something more to life than merely doing what’s expected.

Holly is now unavailable to him. She’s married. To his friend, no less. When something happens to his friend, leaving Holly free, Peter remains bound to Charlotte. He’s not the type to dump one perfectly nice woman (Charlotte) even to run off into the sunset with his true love. It’s just not expected of a nice guy.

As time goes on, circumstances change, leaving one free when the other is not. In less careful hands, this could read as a litany of silly coincidences. Here, it reads as a romantic comedy in which we really root for the hero to get the right girl. Peter is the perfect Everyman, letting readers in on his tendency to overthink nearly everything in an effort not to offend; his sojourn though Corporate America and the upper echelons of New York society; and his quest for that ineffable Something More. It’s a testament to the author that readers will like Peter enough to hope that he finds it.

Rating: 8
January 2008
ISBN# 978-0-316-22155-5 (hardcover)


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