Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: "The Remedy for Love" by Bill Roorbach

The state of Maine is about to get hit with what is being called "the storm of the century." Small-town attorney Eric stops by the grocery store to stock up on some high-end provisions (fancy cheese, good wine, etc.) in preparation for a visit from his estranged wife. He finds himself in line behind Danielle, an unkempt woman he assumes to be homeless, who is having trouble coming up with all of the money she needs to buy her groceries. Rather than cause a scene, he pays the difference, then offers her a ride.

When they arrive at the cabin where Danielle has been staying, a sense of concern comes over Eric. Given the anticipated storm, Danielle needs water and firewood, not to mention more food than she has. And while she's willing to accept a bit of his help, she's more than ready for him to leave her alone. But when Eric finds himself stranded, without a car or a cell phone, the only place he has to go is back to Danielle's cabin—and she's not happy about that, to say the least.

As the storm unleashes its fury, the two forge a tenuous agreement to ride it out together. But as lies are told, truths are revealed, and both the right and the wrong things are said, Danielle and Eric aren't sure if sticking together is the right decision. And Mother Nature has her own ideas. Is Danielle emotional, unstable, and/or possibly dangerous? Is Eric the victim he has painted himself out to be?

The Remedy for Love is an intriguing look at two people who are far more complicated than they appear. Danielle and Eric have some interesting banter, open some painful and emotional wounds, and get in each other's faces, and you're not exactly sure what is going to happen. The stranded-in-a-storm thing has been done before, but Bill Roorbach mines it for all it's worth, and most of the time it works, although there are a few somewhat unbelievable turns the story takes.

I felt the book would have been stronger had it focused solely on Eric and Danielle, but it spent a little too much time also providing the framework of Eric's relationship with Alison, his estranged wife. (And given all of the detail Roorbach provided, I still don't know if I understood what really happened with them.) Danielle, in particular, is really intriguing, but her dialogue is a mix of intellectual and street patois that irritated me at times. The two spend a lot of time dancing around proverbial elephants in the room without actually discussing many of them, and I found the ending a little disjointed. (Maybe someone who read the book can message me and tell me how they think it ended?)

Bill Roorbach is a very talented writer; his first novel, Life Among Giants, boasted another fascinating main character. The Remedy for Love is a strong character study, but one that left me with a few more questions than it did answers.

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