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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.
"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?"
"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.
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?
Posted February 21, 2013
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.
Posted December 24, 2012
Posted December 9, 2012
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.....Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 12, 2012
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 15, 2011
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.
Posted February 13, 2009
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 6, 2007
Posted August 22, 2010
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Posted June 29, 2011
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Posted November 3, 2008
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Posted December 25, 2011
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