Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: Misfortune Cookie, by Michele Gorman

In the wake of the chatter created by author Michele Gorman's article  regarding pay-for-positive-review blogs, I contacted Ms. Gorman with the following question: Would she be willing to send me a digital copy of her book, in exchange for a free (but honest) review? She was happy to do so, and we had a pleasant email exchange about both the book and the debate she had stirred up.

The book in question was Misfortune Cookie, a follow-up to her novel Single In the City. I got a kick out of the description of the author's work, from her blog: "I write funny romantic fiction that's made for stuffing into suitcases and covering with suncreamy fingerprints." It's a bit off the beaten track for me, since I don't usually read much chick-lit and there isn't much call for sunscreen in Seattle.

The story follows the continuing adventures of Hannah, who leaves her home in London to go to Hong Kong with her boyfriend Sam - except that once she gets there, she finds herself without him, more often than not. We struggle along with Hannah as she tries to figure out where things are going with Sam, and as she tries to cope for herself in an unfamiliar place without a lot of life or work experience - or even, apparently, a work permit.

The story is a fairly simple, easy read, with plenty of sightseeing and local color to liven it up, which I enjoyed. I found myself rooting for different characters as the book progressed - hoping Hannah would hook up with her boss, or what appeared to be Sam's straying would turn out to be something easily explainable.

I would personally have preferred to see Hannah grow as a person. She remains childishly, obsessively focused on Sam through the course of the book - which I could relate to but found a bit excessive at times. More significantly, Hannah at the beginning is lacking in work experience and stumbles around in professional situations - although, miraculously, she seems to stumble into the right answers and good situations.  Towards the end of the story, this is unchanged. Hannah attend a business function with her boss, where she babbles childishly in response to a business question, and someone helpfully finds a keen insight in the midst of the babble. She's a professional success. I get that these books are meant to be escapist, so it's fine that it doesn't work this way in the real world, where you don't get to look and act unprofessional, and then find yourself lauded for doing one tiny thing right.

What troubled me, though, was that Hannah didn't actually demonstrate to the reader, the growth that her friend Stacy, a few pages later, would claim she had shown. I felt the  Misfortune Cookie could have been enriched by building out that aspect of story: Hannah's personal growth as she adjusts to living in a new place, finding a career that works for her. It's true she does encounter obstacles - she is sabotaged by another employee on several occasions - but although she overcomes it, we do not really see her rise to the occasion, nor do we really see her learn and grow. All we have is Stacy's word for it: It happened.

I was interested to discover that Misfortune Cookie was actually a collaborative effort: Gorman solicited reader feedback for the book via her blog as she wrote it. It's an interesting approach, though I'm not sure it entirely works. The story lacks focus and meanders a bit; although the Hong Kong details were interesting, their addition did not really add to the story. My overall sense was that Gorman is a probably a solid writer in the genre, as she displayed some nice humor and turns of phrase. So, although Misfortune Cookie is a quick, basic beach read, it is perhaps not her best effort. Still, I liked enough of what I read that I look forward to seeing more from her. 

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, I read this book recently and I found the story line a bit boring. And, like you, I felt that the main character was under developed, or maybe I should just say, the the main character was to dingy for me. Which to me, says something about the author. The fact that the character, Stacy, thinks that Hannah has grown and become something she clearly was not, really threw me for a loop. I couldn't figure out where or how Stacy came to that I just figured that Stacy was a ding bat too. I have read a lot of chick lit books and they are not supposed to be so poorly written that the reader is trying to figure out how 2+2=5. Chick lits a lot of times are escapist books and the story lines can be very much like a fantasy life, but they need to be written intelligently. Chick lit readers are not stupid, they just love to have fun and enjoy being women. I myself, read everything from The Art of War by Sun Tsu to fun romantic chick lit books. A book needs to be written with some literary competency and style, no matter what the genre happens to be.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...