Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: November 2011
Source: Free from Author Agent in Exchange for an honest Review
Rhodes Scholar Gloria Zimmerman has come to Oxford University to study feminist poetry. Yet the rigors of academia pale in comparison to her untreated Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, fueled by her overachieving parents and manifested in a deathly aversion to germs and human contact. Her next-door neighbor (who is also, to her mortification, her loomate) is Henry Young, the appealing but underachieving English music student. Still mourning the death of his supportive mother while enduring the mockery of his disapproving and merciless father, Henry is haunted by the unexpectedly serious ramifications of a reckless and tragic youth. Gloria and Henry's relationship evolves from a shared obsession with Van Morrison's music into a desire to fill the gaps in each other’s lives. Yet the constraints of a debilitating illness and the looming revelation of a catastrophic secret conspire to throw their worlds into upheaval and threaten the possibilities of their unlikely yet redemptive love.
Kaufman was able to pull most of it off. The feminist poetry portion of the story was not too out there. There was no preaching about feminism and women's right. Instead, Kaufman used the feminist poetry element as a tool to bring the characters together and contrast the different portions of Gloria's personality.
The Van Morrison portion was a little overwhelm for me. I am not that familiar with Van Morrison's music and was lost when certain songs were referenced. Van Morrison was everywhere. After a moment I got tired of reading about Van Morrison. In place were feelings and emotions would have been appropriated there were Van Morrison song titles or quotes. Sometime the story seemed to be more about the greatness of Morrison than the relationship between Gloria and Henry.
The OCD angle was both good and not so good. Gloria's OCD was real and it was interesting to see how it affected her life choices and interactions with others. At one point of the story behavior therapy is used to help Gloria overcome her obsessions. I thought that the treatment work a little too quickly for someone who has been suffering from OCD for most of their life.
I did enjoy both Gloria and Henry's character. They were will developed and complex. They were both messed up and the glimpses that Kaufman gave into their past allowed the reader to see why. I think Henry's experiences were more traumatic and his character was a more developed than Gloria's. There was the opportunity for the difference between Gloria's feminist poetry background and her actual personality.
I rooted for them as a couple. They were just messed up enough to expect each other as they were and to work through their flaws together. Henry's humor balanced out Gloria's seriousness. Gloria ambition balanced Henry's laziness. Their love for Van Morrison helped, also.
Kaufman did commit what I think is a sin: The Epilogue. I would have been happy with the story where the last chapter had left off but the epilogue messed up the ending for me. I for one am comfortable wondering what happens in characters lives after the main part of the story ends. I don't need complete closure.
Recommended, especially to those that are familiar with Van Morrison music and who will appreciate the references to his music. I would also recommend it to people who are not Van Morrison's fans but I would warn them that the Van Morrison's references are heavy and sometimes distracting.