One’s mid-to-late 20s are often a time of massive upheaval. Relationships end, careers change, major moves happen, and with all of this sometimes comes a complete redefinition of one’s sense of self. The three new books in this week’s book club are all about women who have to face that redefinition in various ways, each changing something about her self-concept or life trajectory. Something may be lost in the process, and that loss can be significant, but something is always gained in return.
1. When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri ($16): “Today’s closing was with a group of lawyers representing Falcon Capital. Falcon fucking Capital. Hedge funds loved to give themselves names that implemented intimidating animals, names like Lion Management or Tiger Fund. Katie swore if she ever started a fund, she’d go against type with something like Lemur Partners or Sleeping Sloth LLC. Or, in homage to her home state’s favorite backyard game, Cornhole Capital. You’d think someone might appreciate the humor in naming a fund as such, but Katie’s experience so far was that finance guys — and most of them were guys — lacked a sense of humor. They were too busy counting their money…In other words, it was safe to assume no one in the boardroom today would even crack a smile if Katie explained that she was sorry but her suit was rumpled because her life had imploded over the weekend and her ex-fiancé refused to give up custody of the one item she’d ever bought on HSN that meant shit to her.”
Katie’s $20 clothes steamer isn’t the only thing missing from her life. Recently dumped (for her best friend) and hurting, she finally drags herself out to legally oversee a closing at the hedge fund. When Katie arrives in the boardroom, where she’s used to being the only woman, she’s surprised to find that the brash and self-assured man she’s followed up the stairs is actually a brash and self-assured woman wearing a man’s suit. Cassidy Price represents Falcon Capital and delights in shooting down every one of the opposing team’s points, until Katie manages to score with “perfect legalese” that earns her an unexpected smile. It’s a textbook meet-cute, except that Katie isn’t interested in women. Or is she?
As this “opposites attract” rom-com continues apace, Katie has to wrestle between her traditional Kentucky upbringing and her burgeoning (and reciprocated) attraction to Cassidy, a native New Yorker who appears untouchable but has insecurities of her own. The book veers between Katie and Cassidy’s viewpoints, as both compromise and make changes to the lives they expected and the people they thought they were.
2. The Lost For Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland ($27): “It’s good to be reminded that the world is full of stories that are, potentially, at least as painful as yours.” With her tattooed skin and dyed-black hair, Loveday Cardew is a bit of an anomaly in the English city of York. The 25-year-old semi-recluse, somewhat ironically, has a career in customer service. She actually likes working in the used bookshop, though, as she far prefers books to people, and Archie the owner’s good points outweigh his flaws three to one. She has her routine: cereal and a banana twice a day, because she likes breakfast best, going through the donations to find interesting things left within the pages, picking up obscure facts and definitions from walking through the stacks, and chastising people who fold down book corners instead of finding absolutely anything else for a bookmark. This is all about to change, however, when a terrible secret from her past is revealed.
“A book is a match in the smoking second between strike and flame. Archie says books are our best lovers and our most provoking friends. He’s right, but I’m right too. Books can really hurt you. I thought I knew that, the day I picked up the Brian Patten. It turned out that I still had a lot to learn.”
When Loveday rescues a book of poetry off the ground, she doesn’t expect the life-changing impact of finding its owner. The man, poet Nathan Avebury, intrigues and even attracts her, and she wonders whether to let him into her life. In the meantime, she begins to receive packages that make her realize that someone remembers what happened to her 15 years ago. We find out why Loveday came to the bookstore at 15 and never really left, and the legacy of loss she was escaping. Loveday’s pain and her eventual attempt to move past it might resonate with readers trying to make a change of their own.
3. Tango Lessons by Meghan Flaherty ($26): This memoir details the author’s journey through growth and autonomy via lessons in the only dance that is structured but completely improvised. Flaherty initially took tango lessons when she was 16 on a semester abroad in Argentina, where she learned about the concept of being “danced” — dancing without steering, leading while following. Spending the first six years of her life with an unstable and drug-addicted birth mother had left her with trust and body issues. After dating a string of men without chemistry, passion, or even a willingness to touch her, Meghan finds herself, a decade later and after another trip to Buenos Aires, in New York City, taking a new set of initially disappointing dance classes.
“I wanted to be the kind of woman who took tango lessons,” she writes. No longer that 16-year-old, but still too scared to change her situation, she takes lessons “for the doubts” in her life. In another passionless relationship, Meghan realizes that she’s never really let anyone touch her for pleasure. With the help of a fellow tango enthusiast named Mary, she eventually winds up in the underground tango network, and meets Enzo, a man with whom she is able to explore the ideas of desire and self-reliance. She now found herself with the ability to change, trust, and take the chances she’d once feared.
“Forget your fishnet fantasies and take the rose out of your teeth. Real tango is plainer, and more punishing, with a deep and tidal pull. It isn’t glamorous. It isn’t posed or planned. It happens when two people meet on one small patch of hardwood floor and take their place in a line of other dancers moving counterclockwise. It’s a quiet thing. The gentleman opens up his arms and takes the lady’s right hand in his left. They step toward each other, torso to torso, heart to heart, and they listen — they stand still — until the music tells them where to go. You might miss it if you’re not looking close enough. There are no prescribed steps. Though subtle tensions, evanescent shifts of weight, two dancers converse. The music tells them how, and it will never be the same dance twice…It is, above all, bittersweet.” Sounds like a very late-20s kind of dance.
What books have changed your outlook on life? Tag us in your next metamorphic read @BritandCo.
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