Saturday, May 2

The Girlfriend Curse - Valerie Frankel

Peg Silver is stunned when she discovers her ex has married, only months after their long-term relationship came to an end. When she learns that this has been a pattern with all her exes she is determined to find out why. A private investigator tells her that she acted as a catalyst, and that they all think of her favourably. Determined to do something wild to change this pattern, Peg sells her Manhattan apartment and moves to a house in Vermont, a place she's never visited.
On the bus she meets Ray, with whom she has an instant connection. Ray has the same problem, and is embarking on Inward Bound, a retreat designed to help people with relationship issues overcome the behaviours that have held them back. Her new house filled with mice and her loins lusting for Ray, Peg decides to join Inward Bound too, and make over her life entirely.
As is often the case with this genre, it took me a while to warm to Peg and I found the description overblown. For example:
Nina was dressed, as usual, in a silk suit, this one the colour of pale tangerines. Nina loved silk, and silk adored Nina, clinging to her bust, gliding along the flat landscape of her midsection and streaming down her long legs.
The redhead was just as striking, a Technicolour wonder in Day-Glo pink knee-high boots, an orange denim jackets, a yellow ruffled shirt and a pomegranate vinyl tote on her lap.
I also wasn't so taken with a translation of Robbie Burns' poem ("the best laid schemes of mice and men often go wrong. And they leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy") as though that were the poem itself. Finally, on a critical note, the solution to the solution for the mice problem, an ongoing sob-plot, was a bit of a stretch.
However I did for the most part enjoy The Girlfriend Curse - Peg grew on me, the encounter group and its characters were interesting and detailed, and though her family and friends would have irritated me not end they were internally consistent.
I've had mixed luck with Frankel's work, and had decided not to read any more. I found The Girlfriend Curse on the recently returned trolley and was captured by the blurb before I realised it was by her, then decided to try it anyway. I'm glad I did - the location is a refreshing change, and even though Peg is the near-mandatory New York single secular Jew with poor impulse control and an unhealthy obsession with fashion she moves and changes. the romance was slightly unexpected, there were comic moments, and the psychology of the Inbound participants (including its leaders, therapist couple Linus and Wilma) was genuine and interesting. - Alex

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