Q by Evan Mandery
Author: Evan Mandery
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / New York City / Relationships / Writers / Time Travel)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Paperbacks (8/23/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: Okay to liked at moments.
Did I finish?: I did, although it was tough at some parts.
One-sentence summary: A man bails on marrying the love of his life after his future self warns him not to, unleashing more unhappy future selves.
Do I like the cover?: Yes, although it gave me the impression this was more of a hipster-y novel than it is.
I'm reminded of...: Scarlett Thomas, Gary Shteyngart
First line: Q, Quentina Elizabeth Deveril, is the love of my life.
Did... I develop a bit of a crush on Q: YES. The courtship of Q and the narrator is too cute for words. Luff.
Did... I sigh, happily, at the end: YES. The last chapter was just perfect.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow, I think, as it has a lovely romance at the heart of the story that's unusual and appealing.
Why did I get this book?: The opening line grabbed me and the story of love lost always gets me.
Review: With the novel's opening chapter, I found two things: enchanting sweetness and overly quirky forays that ran a bit too long. I immediately loved Q as much as our unnamed narrator did; their very cute courtship charmed me. But just as I started to get seriously excited for the story, Mandery tempered my enthusiasm with four pages describing the stroke-for-stroke mini golf game the narrator and Q play on their second date. Amusingly, the course is owned by Neo-Marxists and so the obstacles are all Communist themed, but the literal recounting of the course bored me and was one of many passages where Mandery went on a bit too long about a pet idea he clearly loved.
That's how the rest of my reading of this novel went.
I'm really of two minds about this book. I enjoyed it enough but I often found myself skimming. Our narrator writes speculative fiction (what if Robespierre took up transcendental meditation, etc.) and this novel is just an extension of that what-if theme. I wanted this novel to be a serious look at the impact of leaving the love of one's life (and what future event would be so awful to make one travel back in time to prevent marriage) but that's not this book -- and ultimately, Mandery isn't responsible for my (erroneous) expectations.
I had mentally resigned myself to being underwhelmed -- then I got to the last chapter. It was a surprise, a moving, tender, sweet, and satisfying conclusion that almost saved the entire book. Suddenly, the long rambling asides didn't seem so exhausting in light of the payoff. I reread the last chapter twice, actually, to savor the language and sentiment, and bask a little longer.
New Yorkers will absolutely want to get this novel as the city is a literal backdrop (opening each chapter) and a background player to all the action. Fans of cerebral silliness will also get a kick out of the narrator's ruminations; lit fic lovers might also like the nerdy narrative and variation on romance.
*** *** ***
I'm pleased to offer a copy of Q to one lucky reader. To enter, leave a comment on this review with your email address. Open to US/CA readers, closes September 9. For more reviews, be sure to check out the other blogs on the tour.