Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Review: Dangled Carat by Hilary Grossman

I was browsing in a used bookstore and stumbled across this memoir. It looked like a light, fun read and the cover and title are that perky combination of cute and clever that guarantee I'll at least take a look. The back cover copy about friends creating a faux engagement for Hilary and commitment phobic boyfriend Marc which pushed their relationship "to an inevitable turning point" sounded intriguing. Unfortunately all the remotely interesting bits of the story are encapsulated on the back cover.

Hilary and Marc had been dating for four years when their friends issued him with an ultimatum (well, pretend ultimatum, as the reader soon finds out). It's New Year's Eve and he should ask Hilary to marry him. His reaction is about as delighted as you'd expect. From there, Grossman winds back in time to when she first met Marc and how their relationship progressed. She chronicles the myriad ways he hurts her feelings, leaving her out of his life early on, only slowly allowing her to meet his friends and family and often choosing to see them and exclude her to the detriment of their growing relationship. But Hilary forgives him every time. In fact, she was so committed (oh, the irony!) to allowing this commitment-phobe to coast along the way he wanted that she inevitably valued his feelings about the future above her own without fail. This might have made for decent reading but for the fact that there is no actual story here, just a recounting of how much Marc's friends love Hilary, how he hurts her but she forgives him, and how she'll just be patient because she doesn't want to pressure him into the marriage she so dearly wants. Even the faux engagement is anti-climactic when she reaches that point for the second time in the narrative.

The lack of a driving narrative isn't the only problem though. This book was in desperate need of a good editor. This appears on the very first page: "Unlike most long-term relationships with commitment phobic men, I had never pressured Marc about marriage." Issues like this with the grammar are not the only problems with the writing either. "After a while Marc led me to the lifeguard chair. He ascended first and then helped me up." What on earth is wrong with the word climbed? Ascended is just trying too hard. Grossman also writes long and detailed scenes that add nothing to the story (readers now know exactly how Marc doctors his semi-homemade salad dressing) and the dialogue is stilted sounding. Thankfully this is a short book because the writing issues combined with the infuriating apologetics were too much for me. Marc and this relationship might work for Hilary, but for me, well, let's just say I'm gladly breaking up with this book.

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