May 16, 2012

Book Review: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

At First Sight: After discovering her boyfriend was cheating on her, Anne Blythe decides she has had enough and moves out, determined to start a new life for herself. Other than her bad luck in love, Anne has a great life: works for a magazine, has a great best friend and a loving family. She's even on the verge of selling her first book. 

But when Sarah, Anne's best friend, tells her she's getting married to her long-time boyfriend Mike, and then Anne starts to run into a few of her exes - all of whom once told her variations of the "I'm not the marrying kind" story and then turned around and married other people - Anne decides to take drastic measures to turn her love-life around. 

That leads her to call a number on a card she found on the street the day she left Stuart, a random piece of paper she picked up because she saw her own last name on it, and which at the time felt like a sign. So, Anne calls Blythe & Co, and finds out they are an sort of matchmaking company, only that they aren't looking to arrange dates between people, they take it a step further and arrange marriages. 

They idea sounds crazy to Anne, but she does want a husband and a family and all those wonderful things, so she signs the contract and a few months later she meets and marries Jack Hammer, a fellow writer that Blythe & Co says its Anne's perfect match. 

But is he? And how much can Anne really trust the stranger she married?

Second Glance: When I first read the summary of Arranged, I had no idea what kind of book it would be and it turned out to be that kind of chick lit that almost reads like women's fiction but not quite - and I mean this in a good way because I don't particularly like women's fiction, but I liked this book. 

From the start, I found Anne to be a nice character and a good narrator, she's smart, warm and funny, and even a little quirky and, deep down, a romantic. And she does yearn for love, and she does go through with a crazy scheme - but, to her credit, she has doubts all the way, but her hope out weights them, so I didn't find her too stupid to live. 

Jack was harder to get a read on, mostly because the book is told in first person so you get your impressions from Anne. In the end, I thought he was a regular guy, nice enough and well, you have to read the book to see what happens, but he was OK. 

I really loved Anne's family and friends - her brother and sister-in-law Gilbert and Cathy, and her best friend Sarah and Sarah's fiancĂ© Mike, and her editor William. You can tell a lot about Anne because of the people who love her, and I liked reading about her. 

Now, I had a couple of problems. First off, the book sometimes felt long - it's a little under 400 pages - like, it could have stand a little trimming because sometimes I felt like "OMG, just finish this scene already and lets get on with it!" (but I'll admit I was always engaged enough to keep on reading, it just wasn't a joy ALL of the time). 

Second, I had this feeling like "Ok, something's gotta happen soon. Something... Something" and then it didn't. And went it finally did, it felt a little anticlimactic. And I'm not entirely sure I liked Anne and Jack together all the time, like I still got a question mark in my head about Jack. Can't decide if he's good enough, somehow. 

Bottom Line: With Arranged, you have to buy into the premise of it, but if you do that, and have a little patience with Anne, you'll probably end up enjoying this book a fair bit. And I do think I would like to check out future works by this author. 

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