The Wednesday Review: The Story Guy

The Wednesday Review is my pick for the book you absolutely, positively have to read this month. They run the gamut from literary fiction to romance, but they all have something in common: beautiful language and a story that sinks its claws in and won’t let go.

I picked up Mary Ann Rivers’ The Story Guy on a recommendation from Dear Author and figured I’d save it for a rainy day. I’ve been reading a ton of New Adult and romance books lately, so I was really hunting for a palate cleanser the other night. But it was late, I was tired, and I thought I’d give The Story Guy a glance before I headed for bed.

I stayed up past my bedtime.

Carrie’s a thirty-something librarian who, on a whim, answers an intriguing personal ad: meet on Wednesdays in Celebration Park for an hour of kissing. That’s it. Just kissing. The photo accompanying the ad showed an attractive man around her age. After a brief IM conversation with the ad poster (named Brian) she shows up on the appointed day at the agreed upon time and receives the first kiss to end all first kisses.

It doesn’t take long for Carrie and Brian to move from just kissing to IM chats, phone calls, and a brunch date, but something’s holding Brian back. Carrie doesn’t push for details. She nudges them out of him, bit by bit, as their relationship lurches forward, shudders to a stop, and slowly, oh so slowly, flames back to life.

This novella is impossible to put down. You try to and you can’t, because you want to know what happens after their brunch, or how Brian’s going to make it up to Carrie, or how long she’ll have to stand in the park, freezing, before he shows up. Carrie is content with her life; she has a job she enjoys and friends and family she loves. I loved having a heroine who had her shit together and wasn’t agonizing over what was missing from her life.

What really set this story apart, though, was the prose. It’s rare to find a genre book written with the same care and attention to language as a literary novel, but The Story Guy has those lilting, lovely sentences that make you sigh and wish you could harness that exquisite power, to control a reader’s emotions with such a deft and sure touch.

Also? I cried. I think the last time a book made me cry was three years ago. It’s a rare occurrence, me crying over a book, and this time it was mostly because of Brian. If Carrie’s life is full, Brian’s is one of stolen moments. His life isn’t his own, and he’s made due for so long with what scraps he can snag for himself that he’s forgotten what it’s like to have something, and someone, all for himself.

The closer I got to the end, the more often I found myself checking the percentage at the bottom of my Kindle. I wanted the numbers to go backward. I didn’t want the story to end. Rivers drew me in, made me care, made me cry, and served up a bittersweet happy ever after that made me immediately go back to the beginning so I could indulge in that perfect first kiss all over again.

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