Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book Review: "Monsters: A Love Story" by Liz Kay

I love when a book comes from out of nowhere and charms you completely. That was definitely the case with Monsters: A Love Story. I can't remember how I found out about this book, and although the plot isn't necessarily earth-shattering, it's an enjoyable twist on the traditional love story.

Stacey Lane's world was rocked when her husband Michael died, leaving her alone with their two young boys. Michael was an actuary, a planner, someone who believed in the power of routine, not just in raising children, but in all aspects of life. This is only one area in which Stacey, a poet, feels woefully inadequate. She believes that she and her sons are doing their best to handle their grief, and she's trying to figure out exactly how to carry on.

"It's the boys and I who are floundering. Just in different ways. They want nothing more to change, and I want everything to."

She is tremendously surprised when she gets an email from a producer inquiring about adapting her second book of poetry, Monsters in the Afterlife, for the big screen. While it received some critical acclaim when it was released, this novel-in-verse (a feminist reimagining of sorts of Frankenstein) doesn't seem particularly commercial. But the next thing she knows, her book has been optioned for film, and she's flying to Turks and Caicos to meet the screenwriter and the film's male star, who also plans to produce the movie, as he's the person who first thought it would make a good movie.

Stacey is utterly unprepared when she realizes the man behind the movie is Tommy DeMarco, a certifiable movie star, utter heartthrob, and total ladies' man. It's easy to be attracted to Tommy, especially when he is such a passionate fan of her work, and of course, Stacey has been feeling lonely since Michael's death. When their intense friendship moves to the next level, the sex is intense and they really enjoy being together, but given that she lives with her family in Nebraska and Tommy lives in LA, and since Tommy has been known to sleep with nearly every younger woman with a pulse, there's no danger of their relationship going anywhere, and that's totally fine with her.

As Stacey and Tommy's friendship deepens and the two get more involved in each other's lives, Stacey still finds it easy to keep him at an emotional distance. After all, she's been warned not to get too serious about him. Yet as she starts dating someone more solid closer to home, she needs to figure out exactly what she wants, and if she really is content with someone who won't make her life bigger, but perhaps will make it more stable.

I really enjoyed this book even as I had a pretty strong feeling about how everything would resolve itself. I liked the way Liz Kay pretty much flipped the gender roles in this relationship, making Stacey the one who really was fine without commitment, the one who sent mixed signals. The dynamics of Stacey and Tommy's relationship worked well, and I enjoyed the book's intellectual side as well as its romantic one.

This is a fun, sweet, moving story about putting your life back together (or trying to), the challenges of single parenthood no matter how old your children are, the creative process, and the importance of trust. You may have seen this story played out before, but it doesn't feel pat or boring, just really enjoyable.

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