A Little Love Story

( 11 )

Overview

Jake Entwhistle is smart and handsome, but living with a shadow over his romantic history. Janet Rossi is a bright, witty aide to the governor of Massachusetts, but Janet suffers from an illness that makes her, as she puts it, “not exactly a good long-term investment.” After meeting by accident late one night, they begin a love affair filled with humor, startling intimacy, and a deep, abiding connection.
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A Little Love Story

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Overview

Jake Entwhistle is smart and handsome, but living with a shadow over his romantic history. Janet Rossi is a bright, witty aide to the governor of Massachusetts, but Janet suffers from an illness that makes her, as she puts it, “not exactly a good long-term investment.” After meeting by accident late one night, they begin a love affair filled with humor, startling intimacy, and a deep, abiding connection.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Thoughtful, restrained (yet very sexy). . . . Merullo captures what it feels like when you meet ‘the one’–and what you’re willing to do to hold onto that person.” –The New York Times“Moving and beautifully paced, this is the tale of an enlightened carpenter and a charismatic woman living with a body that’s betraying her. A teary modern saga you won’t forget.” –People “Merullo does a gorgeous job of rendering naked emotion; it’s never slobbery, just frank. Jake and Janet are so believable and appealing . . . you are sucked right into Jake’s desperation.” –The Boston Globe“A wonderful story of love and death, pain and courage, and loss and redemption that leaves the reader believing that . . . real love and human connection are still possible in the 21st century.” –The Bloomsbury Review
Donna Rifkin
For all its sadness, his narrative is never maudlin; for all its familiarity, it's never trite. No tears are jerked in the delivery of this solidly satisfying little romance, whose author is something of a Houdini in the art of escaping banality
— The Washington Post
Maggie Galehouse
To say Merullo's latest novel is true to its title is to diminish the impact of this thoughtful, restrained (yet very sexy) book.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Merullo, author of the Revere Beach series, starts out with a hoary cliche: Jake Entwhistle, on the one-year anniversary of his girlfriend's death, goes out for a doughnut, and his '49 Dodge truck gets smashed in the parking lot by cowboy-booted, 27-year-old Janet Rossi. Chemistry wins out over a series of first-date pratfalls, and Entwhistle, a handsome, successful painter, finds himself smitten. Rossi, however, has cystic fibrosis, and Merullo does his best work in the deceptively lighthearted chapters that follow the lovers trying to shed their romantic baggage on top of dealing with Rossi's illness. Entwhistle must overcome his jealousy over Rossi's affair with the governor of Massachusetts (she's still his aide), and he must also finally mourn the late Giselle (an attendant on the flight that went down in Pennsylvania on 9/11). Rossi's debilitating disease quickly sends her into a tailspin; Jake tries to pull together lung donors and a "psycho-genius" doctor for an operation that could save Rossi's life. Merullo counters the cardboard morbidity and overdetermined incidentals with considerable emotional depth, making this a solid romance. (On sale Aug. 9) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Right from the start, it's clear that Merullo's latest novel (after In Revere, in Those Days) is about loss and grief, with lighthearted moments: "My year of mourning was over, and I decided to mark the anniversary by treating myself to a doughnut." This bittersweet love story rises above its overwrought two-hankie potential with compassion for its characters. Jake Entwhistle, a 30-year-old carpenter, risks reentering the dating scene by asking out the woman who smashed his truck outside the doughnut shop. Janet Rossi is 27, beautiful, smart-an aide to the governor-and dying of cystic fibrosis. Despite their individual baggage and Jake's goofy nervousness, they feel an immediate connection. The novel chronicles the next three months, as Janet's health declines and every wet, choking breath is an exercise in courage. While it's improbable that Jake would suffer two tragedies like this, it's not distracting, and the overall impression is one of great love and intimacy. Recommended for most public libraries.-Christine Perkins, Burlington P.L., WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Eros and Thanatos in Boston. Merullo (In Revere, In Those Days, 2002, etc.) risks the mawkish in this readable tale. Having just spent a celibate year mourning the death of his girlfriend Giselle, Jake Entwhistle emerges for a donut, only to meet and fall for Janet Rossi, a woman dying of cystic fibrosis. Jake is the new man incarnate-both carpenter and artist, given to goofy jokes and the occasional fistfight in defense of maidens in distress. Giselle, it turns out, died on 9/11, aboard Flight 93, when it crashed in Pennsylvania. Janet, who was having an affair with her boss, Charles Valvelsais, the shady but recently reelected governor of Massachusetts, may not survive the year it will take for her to find a lung transplant donor. The lovers do snatch some moments of happiness together, but Merullo spends more time charting Janet's illness than he does the happiness. A visit to Jake's brother, a Catholic monk, brings up the subject of belief. Jake speculates on an indifferent God, "a mean-hearted trickster" who permits the suffering endured by the diseased, the terrorized and their families. Some spleen is also directed at the medical establishment in the guise of various reptilian doctors whose treatment of Janet verges on the callous or self-interested. It falls to Jake to discover that she might be saved by a living lobar transplant. But his labors are far from over. He must twist the arm of the one local (retired, reluctant) surgeon who could perform the operation and then find two suitable tissue donors. Jake himself will be one and, at Janet's urging, Valvelsais-who turns the challenge into a p.r. opportunity-the other. It would take a heart of stone not to be moved by Janet'sendurance. But it would take the hide of a rhino not to feel massaged into emotional compliance by the story's heavily stacked odds of circumstance and character. An intelligent tear-jerker.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400032556
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/8/2006
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 711,636
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Roland Merullo is the critically acclaimed author of Revere Beach Elegy and In Revere, In Those Days. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and two children.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

My year of mourning was over, and I decided to mark the anniversary by treating myself to a doughnut.

By my own choice, I had not had sex with anyone during those twelve months. I'm not sure why I did that. Maybe it was out of respect for the woman I had lost, though she wouldn't have wanted anything like that from me. My older brother is a monk, so maybe I was trying to prove I could keep up with him in the abstinence department. Or maybe I was just afraid I would meet someone I liked and sleep with her, then start to think about her all the time, then start to want to have children with her, and then she would be torn away from me and spirited off to some better world—if there is a better world—and that is not the kind of thing you want to go through twice in one year.

So on that wet September night my year of abstinence was finished, and I went out looking for a doughnut as a sort of offbeat celebration. That's all, really. A doughnut says: Listen, for your eighty-five cents I'm going to give you a quick burst of feel-good. No soul connection. No quiet walks. No long foreplay sessions in a warm one-bedroom. No extinction of aloneness. No jealousy. No fights. No troubles. No risk.

On that night, the risk I thought I was willing to take extended only as far as chocolate-glazed. Steaming cup of decaf next to it, little bit of cream, the shabby comfort of my favorite doughnut shop. It seemed a small enough thing to ask, after the year I'd seen.

The steady rain that had been falling during the afternoon and early part of the night had quieted to a light drizzle. The streets were black and wet, streaked with color from storefront neon and traffic lights. I worked my old pickup out of its parking space—foolish move, giving up a parking space in that neighborhood at that late hour—and drove to Betty's.

There is no Betty. Once there might have been, but at that point Betty's was owned by Carmine Asalapolous, a rough-edged, middle-aged man who had told me once that he wished he'd done something heroic in his life so he'd have a piece of high ground to fall back on when the devils of self-doubt were after him. Carmine, I said, just being a decent person, good father, excellent doughnut-maker—that's enough heroism for one life. But he shook his big head sadly and said no, it wasn't, not for him.

Carmine went to a two-hour Orthodox service on Sunday mornings. During the week he liked to make off-color jokes with his regular customers. He had some kind of mindless prejudice against college professors, a scar between his eyebrows that looked like a percent sign, and two young daughters whom he adored and whose pictures and drawings were taped up on every vertical surface in Betty's. He took his work seriously. If you got him going on the subject of doughnut-making, he'd tell you the chain doughnut shops used only the cheapest flour, which is why you left those places with a pasty aftertaste on your tongue.

I parked in front. The roof of Betty's was dripping and one cold droplet caught me on the left ear as I walked in. I remember that odd detail. In line at the counter I held a little debate with myself—how wild a night should it be?—then asked for two chocolate-glazed instead of one, a medium instead of a small decaf. Carmine was counting money in the floury kitchen. I could see him there through a sort of glassless window. He looked up at me from his stack of bills, pointed with his chin at the waitress's back, and made a John Belushi face, pushing his lips to the side and lifting one eyebrow, the expression of a man who had not a millionth of a chance of ever touching the waitress in a way she liked, and knew it.

I carried my paper cup of coffee and paper plate with two doughnuts on it to a stool at a counter that looked out on Betty's wet parking lot. In a minute a trim, balding man sat beside me, with a black coffee and the Sports section of the New York Times. "Nice truck," he said.

"Thanks."

"I saw you get out of it," he said.

I could not think of any response to this.

He kept trying. He said: "You don't see many of them still around. Fifty-one Dodge?"

"Forty-nine."

"Gorgeous," he said. "Like you."

I looked away. I was waiting for my coffee to cool, and was not really in the mood to talk, and though I understand sexual loneliness as well as the next person, there was not much I could do about this man's loneliness. Just at that exact moment—it was after midnight—a woman walked out of Betty's carrying a small bag and got into her car and she must have had a slippery shoe or been distracted by something because she put her new Honda in reverse and drove it across about fifteen open feet of parking lot and straight into the back of my truck.

"Whoa!" the man beside me yelled.

I took a good hot sip of coffee. I watched the woman get out, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand and looking as if she wished she had never been born. And then, very calmly, I went outside to talk to her.

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Reading Group Guide

1. One of the things Jake enjoys most about his relationship with Janet is the comfort of the shared moods that make words seem unnecessary. But in what seem like Janet's final hours, Jake regrets not having said more. What thoughts and feelings should he have expressed more explicitly? What opportunities do you think he's missed for sharing his feelings?

2. What does Jake's work as a carpenter mean to him? Do you think he would continue in this line of work if his paintings earned him enough to make a good living?

3. On their first night together, Janet is standing naked in Jake's apartment when he reflects, "No woman had ever been so naked with me . . . it was almost inhuman to be as naked as that." What does he mean by this? How does Janet make him feel this way?

4. How would you describe Governor Valvelsais's feelings for Janet? Are the qualities he sees in her the same ones that attract Jake?

5. The word machine is used several times in the book to describe people in a derogatory way: the September 11 terrorists are described as machines. Ellory refers to unreflective people as machines. But Jake also describes Janet's detachment when administering her own medicine and tests as machine-like. In her case, is the description negative? How does the meaning of the word shift from terrorists and religious automatons to Janet?

6. Why does Janet add her name to the waiting list for a lung transplant? Does she have any real hope that she will survive the wait?

7. In all her confusion, Jake's mother has moments of clarity—and one significant moment of revelation when she recalls "living lobal." Why do you think it takes Jake so long to realize her meaning? Given the circumstances, did you see her blurting out "living low-ball," as Jake heard it, as significant at the time?

8. Before taking his painting of Janet to Dr. Vaskis as a bribe, Jake revises it to reflect his new understanding of her courage. What qualities do you think the painting conveyed before the revision? How do the changes he makes to the painting reflect the changes in Jake and Janet's relationship, and in Jake's openness to love?

9. Both Jake, with his painful, recent, romantic history, and Janet, with her realistically limited expectations for a romantic future, have reasons to be reluctant in exposing their hearts to what seems like a doomed relationship. What is it that makes each of them decide to take the risk?

10. Why does Jake continue to call his sister, though her circumstances and attitude never seem to improve? What does this act reveal about his character?

11. Janet explains to Jake the reasons she is drawn to politics, and also a list of reasons she would not wish to hold an elected office herself. Do you think she would be as reluctant to run for office if she were healthy? How does her illness affect her political idealism?

12. Of his mother, Gerard, and Ellory, is there one character who you think provides Jake with the best moral support? Who do you think is Jake's best advisor?

13. Why does Janet choose Jake over the governor?

14. What do you make of Amelia Rossi's elaborate Thanksgiving feast? Is this overabundance just a family tradition or do you see it as something more meaningful?

15. Why does Jake take Janet to Shanksville? What purpose does this trip serve for him, and why is it important that Janet be there?

16. Are there any silver linings to Janet's illness?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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(8)

4 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 21, 2013

    Jake and Janet meet, fall in love, and deal with Janet's cystic

    Jake and Janet meet, fall in love, and deal with Janet's cystic fibrosis while trying to lead a normal life. The characters are fleshed out nicely, and it's interesting to read a romance written from a man's point of view. However, the book just didn't stick with me very long after I read it. I finished it last week, and I'm already forgetting key points. I had to pick it back up to remember some of the plot line.

    I found it readable and pleasant, but a tad bland. Then again, I'm not a big romance reader, so someone who likes that genre might have a more positive experience with the book. I'll consider reading more of Merullo's work in the future, but I have a long list of other authors I want to get to first.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    Great story -- not the usual

    I really enjoyed this love story. Those who thought you were left hanging must have forgotten what you read in the beginning.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012

    The Boy and the Foe

    I smiled and straightened my dress nervously. This was a big day!!! I went out the door to my boyfriends house. Today was Luke's birthday!! I was going to surprise him and we were going to have so much fun together. I got in my car and drove over to his house nervously. His mother wasn't home....thankfully! I opened the door and stepped into the warm foyer. No one was downstairs so l headed upstairs to his room. I could hear odd thumping noises. I heard someone gasp and moan. I rushed over and opened the door. I gasped in shock. "Luke?! Massie?!" I said astonished. Massie was laying naked on top of Luke. Who was also nude. My hands quivered angirly. "How could you?! Massie! We have beed best friends for ever! And now this!" My voice shook. Massie looked up. Her hair was wild and he lipstick smudged. My eyes teared up. Luke pushed her off him. "Sav! Its not what it seeems! I can explain! Please baby girl?!" I shook my head and ran down the hall. I was tackled fom the behind and dragged backwards. I fought kicking and screaming the whole way. They draggde me in and tied me to a chair. Massie shoved a pair of he underwear in my mouth gagging me. I temporarily choked. Massie grinned evily and pulled Luke up. They entwined themselves together kissing and moaning. I shut my eyes trying to block it out. I could still hear though. I tried not to listen but it was impossible. To be continued.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    I wasted a day reading this book...

    This book had so much potential but the ending leaves you hanging. It had a good plot, likeable characters but the end had me frustrated because there was no resolution.

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  • Posted February 15, 2011

    You too will fall in love with Jake and Janet.

    Wonderful characters, great story, couldn't put it down. It is by no means, however, a little love story. It's a humongous love story.
    But, my main gripe is when a book has no ending........did Janet live? We'll never know. A sequel is needed here. Without an ending, there's no point in reading a book.

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  • Posted February 13, 2009

    A really sweet book.

    I picked up a copy from my local library and fell in with this novel. I finished it very quickly and it brought me to tears. You know its a good book when it brings you to tears. I suppose its the cover that attracted me, and my adoration for good fiction. The characters are crisp, genuine, and I found the main male character reminding me of my own boyfriend. I love how the author portrays love and life through the same tale, intertwines and weaves them gently and lovingly, proving that love is more than physical attraction when it's the real thing. Beautifully written, and endearing as well as touching. I loved this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2007

    love to see books written about CF.

    Great story. Great characters.easy read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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