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The Guy Not Taken: Stories

The Guy Not Taken: Stories

3.3 109
by Jennifer Weiner

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Jennifer Weiner's talent shines like never before in this collection of short stories, following the tender, and often hilarious, progress of love and relationships over the course of a lifetime. From a teenager coming to terms with her father's disappearance to a widow accepting two young women into her home, Weiner's eleven stories explore those transformative


Jennifer Weiner's talent shines like never before in this collection of short stories, following the tender, and often hilarious, progress of love and relationships over the course of a lifetime. From a teenager coming to terms with her father's disappearance to a widow accepting two young women into her home, Weiner's eleven stories explore those transformative moments in our every day.

We meet Marlie Davidow, home alone with her new baby late one Friday night, when she wanders onto her ex's online wedding registry and wonders what if she had wound up with the guy not taken. We stumble on Good in Bed's Bruce Guberman, liquored-up and ready for anything on the night of his best friend's bachelor party, until stealing his girlfriend's tiny rat terrier becomes more complicated than he'd planned. We find Jessica Norton listing her beloved New York City apartment in the hope of winning her broker's heart. And we follow an unlikely friendship between two very different new mothers, and the choices that bring them together -- and pull them apart.

The Guy Not Taken demonstrates Weiner's amazing ability to create characters who "feel like they could be your best friend" (Janet Maslin) and to find hope and humor, longing and love in the hidden corners of our common experiences.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This collection of 11 stories written over the past 15 years reads like a series of studies for Weiner's larger chick lit portraits. As in the novels (Goodnight Nobody; Good in Bed), smart, acerbic, 30-something women battle dating damage and broken childhoods (absent fathers in particular) in order to build their own families-or to convince themselves they still want to. In "The Wedding Bed," a new bride realizes, "I thought that every story I would tell for the rest of my life will somehow be about this: about the man who left and never came back." "Mother's Hour" tightly focuses on new toddler trauma as experienced by first-time mothers and shows how motherhood can be another conduit for woman-to-woman envy and suspicion. In "Swim," sometime scriptwriter and obsessive swimmer Ruth, her face scarred from the car accident in which her parents died, must eschew the verbal "edge" she finds so compelling in men in order to find love. One roots for Weiner's characters as they come to terms-and in some cases, heal-from disappointment and neglect. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

In her recent novels, notably In Her Shoes, Weiner explores human relationships in all their complexity, poignancy, and delight. Although Weiner's voice and settings are very contemporary, the messes people make among family members, friends, and lovers are as old as time. This audio production consists of nearly a dozen stories—some interrelated and some standalone—that are small portraits of fear, commitment, and love. In the first story, a long-married man with three teenaged children pushes himself away from the table and walks out of the house, never to return. His wife copes by swimming miles each day in the crumbling family pool, and the children try to handle their beloved dad's disappearance in their own sad and often self-destructive ways. The tale that will have listeners talking aloud to their audio players concerns a woman whose aunt leaves her a fabulous New York apartment. In order to endear herself to her loser real-estate-broker boyfriend, she agrees to sell the apartment so he can boost his confidence by getting the prestige (and the big commission). Performers Mary Catherine Garrison and Jordan Bridges are adequate; there's not a great deal of expression, and careful listening is required to keep the characters straight. Still, this is recommended for public libraries.
—Barbara Valle

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The Guy Not Taken

By Jennifer Weiner


Copyright © 2006 Jennifer Weiner, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4165-3520-9

Chapter One

Marlie Davidow was not the kind of woman who went looking for trouble. But one Friday night in September, thanks to her own curiosity and the wonders of the Internet, trouble found her.

Her brother Jason and his bride-to-be were registered on WeddingWishes.com. Marlie, housebound with a six-month-old, did all her shopping online, sitting on the beige slipcovered couch where she spent most of her time nursing her baby, or rocking her baby, or trying to get her baby to stop crying. So, on that fateful Friday night after Zeke had finally succumbed to sleep, she wiped the fermented pureed pears off her shirt, set her laptop on the sofa's arm, and pointed and clicked her way through the purchase of a two-hundred-dollar knife set. As she hit "complete order," she wondered about the propriety and potential bad mojo of sending the happy couple knives for their wedding. Too late, she thought, and rubbed her eyes. It was nine o'clock - a time, prebaby, when a night might just be getting started - but Drew was still at work, and she was as whipped as if she'd run a marathon.

Just for the hell of it, Marlie typed in her name and reviewed her own choices, feeling wistful as she remembered compiling her wedding registry. She and Drew had made outings ofit, having leisurely brunches before driving out to the Macy's in the Paramus Mall to spend hours looking at china and crystal, silver martini shakers and hand-blown margarita glasses from Mexico.

Two years and three months after their wedding, the crystal and the silverware were still in their original boxes in her mother's basement, awaiting the day when she and Drew would move out of their one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side and into a place with a dining room, or at least a little more storage space. The fancy china had been pulled out twice, which corresponded to the number of home-cooked meals Marlie had made since she'd left her job as publicity director for a small theater company in Chelsea to stay home after Zeke was born.

The telephone rang. Marlie picked it up and looked at the caller ID. WebWorx. Which meant Drew. Who was probably calling to say he'd be even later than usual. She nudged the phone under a couch cushion and then, prodded by an impulse she didn't pause to analyze, turned back to her laptop, typed the words Bob Morrison into the "bride/groom" blank, and hit Enter before she could lose her nerve.

Nothing, she thought, as a little hourglass popped up on the screen. Over the last four years, on and off, she'd looked for Bob online, idly typing his name into one search engine or another during down times at work. She never found anything except the same stale handful of links: Bob's name listed as among the finishers in a 5K race he'd run in college; Bob mentioned as one of the survivors in his grandfather's obituary; Bob and a bunch of other graduates of a summer art institute in Long Island. Besides, if Bob ever got married, Marlie figured she'd feel it at some kind of organic, cellular level. After all the time they'd lived together, not to mention all the times they'd slept together, she'd just know.


Marlie jerked her head back from the computer as if a hand had reached out and slapped her. Bob Morrison. Manhasset. That's my Bob, she thought, and then she shook her head sharply, because Bob wasn't hers anymore. They'd broken up four years ago. Then she'd met Drew, and now she was married; she was Mrs. Drew Davidow, mother of one, and Bob wasn't hers anymore.

CLICK TO VIEW REGISTRY, invited the text at the top of the page. Marlie clicked, and scrolled through the registry, her slack jaw and wide eyes bathed in the blue glow of the screen until her husband came home, looking wan and weary, and set his briefcase down next to the diaper bag. "Are you okay?" he asked. She'd blinked at him groggily and started to climb off the couch. The baby was crying again.

"No, don't worry, I got it." He managed a smile and headed toward the portioned-off part of their bedroom where Zeke slept. "Hey, little man," she heard him say. She managed to get herself off the couch and staggered toward the bedroom. I'll just rest for a minute, she thought as her head hit the pillow. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again it was three in the morning. Drew was on the couch, with Zeke resting on his chest, just starting to open his eyes. Marlie unfastened her nursing bra, adjusted Zeke's weight in her arms, and eventually, the three of them fell asleep on the sofa, together.

"He's marrying a woman who registered for a Health-O-Meter food scale," Marlie reported to her best friend Gwen on Monday, over an early lunch at their favorite Midtown sushi place. Gwen, who'd been Marlie's friend in college and first roommate in New York, had gotten married at twenty-five and pregnant at twenty-seven, and had gone back to work in advertising when her daughter started nursery school. That day she wore high-heeled boots, fitted jeans, and a smart tweed jacket with ruffled cuffs, complemented by a gorgeous red patent-leather bag. Marlie carried a nylon diaper bag and wore maternity jeans. She'd never been a skinny girl to start with, and she was having trouble shedding the last fifteen (eighteen, actually) pounds of baby weight, which seemed to have settled themselves quite happily on her hips.

Gwen raised her eyebrows. "And we know this because ..."

Marlie gave her the condensed version of the story while pushing Zeke's stroller back and forth with her sneakered foot: she'd been buying her brother a present, just decided to plug in Bob's name ...

Gwen's saucer-shaped hazel eyes widened, but her voice was calm as she said, "Just decided to?"

Marlie's cheeks flushed. "Well, I was curious, I guess. And that's not the point. The point is that he's marrying the un-me! The anti-me!" She pushed the stroller so hard that it bumped into the table, spilling green tea onto Gwen's plate and into her lap. "Oh, God. I'm sorry!"

"No worries," Gwen said too quickly, as she tried to mop up the mess while keeping her cuffs dry. "It's just tea. So the un-me thing. You're basing it just on the food scale?"

"What kind of woman registers for a food scale?" Marlie asked.

"A woman who's concerned about portion size, I guess."

"A skinny bitch," Marlie muttered, handing her friend her napkin. "And if you're the person who gives them the food scale, what do you say on the card? 'Best wishes for a happy life together, PS, don't get fat?'"

"You could just go with 'congratulations,'" Gwen said.

"It wasn't just the food scale," said Marlie. "There was a plastic chip-and-dip set. Tack-ay. And beige china. Beige!" She shook her head, feeling her heart pounding, realizing she was angrier about this than she'd previously suspected. "Beige. Bor-ing." Yeah, she thought bitterly. Like she was leading such an exciting life. Her idea of culture these days was watching more than twenty minutes of uninterrupted Oprah.

Gwen set her chopsticks down. "Okay. Listen to me. We are not going down the Bob Morrison road again."

"What are you talking about?"

"The obsession. The agonizing. The dialing while drunk."

"I only did that once," Marlie protested. Gwen's cuffs were dripping. Marlie pulled a Pamper out of her diaper bag and handed it to her friend.

"The drive-bys," Gwen continued relentlessly, pointing a chopstick for emphasis.

"It can't technically be a drive-by if you walk," Marlie said. "And, listen, Gwen, what if he was the one I was supposed to be with? What if ..." She took a bite of dynamite roll, poured more tea, and popped a few edamame our of their shells. When she looked up, Gwen was still waiting, head tilted, eyes wide. She sighed, and said, reluctantly, "What if he was the one?"

Gwen looked taken aback, as if she'd never questioned her commitment to her own husband. She probably hadn't, Marlie thought. It was probably easy not to when your husband was tall, handsome, completely agreeable, besotted with you, and looked like a taller, not-crazy Tom Cruise. "Well, for starters, you married someone else and had a baby with him," Gwen said.

Marlie sighed. There was that. Gwen set her chopsticks down on her plate and looked at her friend intently. "Marlie," she said. "This is what you wanted. You wanted Drew, you wanted a baby, you wanted to stop working. Remember?"

Marlie nodded. She could remember, all too vividly, sitting across from her friend in this very restaurant, bouncing Gwen's daughter Ginger on her knee and avowing her desire for those very things. But Ginger had been an adorably pudgy baby who'd grown into an adorable little girl, with a collection of Little Mermaid purses and after-school ballet lessons, and Gwen, with her clean house and her nanny and her happy, accommodating husband, made it all look easy. Had Gwen's first six months of motherhood been this awful? If they were, Marlie wondered, would her friend have told her?

"I know things aren't great right now," Gwen said. "Marriages go through rough times."

"Did yours?" she asked.

Gwen shrugged. "Well, sure. Remember that fight we had about whether to take his mom on vacation with us?"

Marlie nodded, even though, as best as she could remember, that fight had ended after a day, when Paul had simply agreed to tack on the cost of another casita to their stay in Scottsdale. As for Marlie, she had thought, once or twice, late at night when she was so tired it was a struggle to get her limbs to obey her, that recent events in her marriage had transcended the boundaries of "rough time" and were edging toward "the whole thing was a mistake." Drew and his partners were in the process of launching WebWorx. Her husband left their apartment before eight in the morning and rarely got home before nine o'clock at night, and she couldn't fairly complain about it, because he was the only one bringing home a paycheck. She'd just never expected that caring for a newborn would leave her feeling so exhausted, so edgy and desperate for adult human contact beyond the ten minutes of conversation Drew could muster before falling asleep when he finally came home.

"It's going to get better," Gwen said. She glanced at her slim gold watch, smoothed her straightened hair, and got to her feet. "I know this part's hard, but trust me. You just have to live through it. Zeke's going to start walking and talking, and sleeping, and you'll be fine." She looked down fondly at Zeke, and bent to kiss his cheek. "And believe me, you wouldn't have wanted to miss this. It goes so fast."

Marlie nodded, feeling a jealousy toward her friend that was so strong and sudden that it was like being punched. She'd have given anything to be Gwen, with ruffled cuffs and beautiful boots, on her way off to an afternoon that would not include endless renditions of "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" and three baskets of spit-up stiffened laundry; an evening that would not involve a baby who screamed and screamed, no matter how she tried to soothe him.

She meant to walk home, but Zeke was still sleeping peacefully in his stroller, and somehow she found herself walking downtown, past the bus stop and the trash cans, the grocery store and the fancy boutiques, toward the neighborhood where she and Bob had once lived together.

"Hey, Bob, meet Marlie!"

"Hah hah hah," Marlie said, holding her plastic cup of beer and looking up at the man who'd just occasioned a joke she'd heard approximately a thousand times in her life - once for every Bob she'd ever met. But this Bob didn't seem so bad. He was broad-shouldered, maybe an inch or two taller than she was, with curling brown hair and gold-rimmed glasses, a soft belly pushing against the buttons of his blue-and-green-plaid shirt, and a friendly, slanting smile. He looked like an illustration of a friendly bear cub from one of the books she'd loved as a little girl.

"Is it Marley like the singer, or ..."

"No, it's Marlie with an i and an e."

"Oh." Bob nodded, leaning close so she could hear him over the sound of R.E.M. informing the assembled guests in the crowded off-campus apartment that it was the end of the world as they knew it. "Wanna dance?"

She shook her head. She didn't dance. Girls like Gwen - cute girls, graceful girls - they danced. Girls like Marlie stood in the corner, making caustic comments and guarding her friends' purses.

"No thank you," she said, but Bob either didn't hear or didn't care because he plucked her cup of beer out of her hand and pulled her toward the center of the room.

"No, really," she tried again, but Bob wasn't listening. He smiled and reached for her, putting one hand on the small of her back, tucking her neatly against him.

"Come on," he said. His skin was pleasantly warm, and he smelled of soap and beer and something sweet, like hay or fresh-cut grass. Even through the bass line, she imagined she could hear the beating of his heart.

Bob and Marlie stayed together until they graduated from NYU, and then they moved into a place that Marlie had found in Murray Hill. Marlie, who'd starred in every campus theater group production from Medea to Hair, did temp work in law offices and went on auditions and go-sees, trying out for everything from soap operas to experimental off-Broadway productions to made-for-cable shoot-'em-ups. Bob talked about graduate school and painted his big, colorful abstract canvases a few hours a day, a few days a week. Bob had a trust fund, thanks to a father who'd done quite well as a personal injury attorney (one big case involving a guy who'd lost both legs in a freak subway mishap, and he'd been set for life), so it didn't really matter if Bob never got a gallery to represent him, or a day job, or if he never finished the paintings he started, or if he spent most of his time making mix tapes and meeting his similarly semi-employed friends for lunches that turned into marathon Frisbee games in Union Square Park.

Marlie watched and waited, and went everywhere her agent sent her. It took her a few years to figure out, gradually and painfully, that she was a good actress, and New York City only had room for the great ones - and sometimes, not even them. She'd get the occasional callback for TV shows that filmed in New York, the every-so-often bit part, and once, a commercial for an antacid in which she portrayed Bloating Sufferer Number Three, and clutched at her belly convincingly for fourteen hours.

She and Bob turned twenty-three, then twenty-four, still in their little apartment with the kitchen full of newspapers and pizza boxes Bob could never remember to recycle, and the bed - well, futon, really - that never got made, where everything they owned had been scavenged from a street corner or donated by Bob's parents. Two weeks after Bob's twenty-fifth birthday, they had a talk that boiled down to Marlie asking, "Is this all you want from your life?" and Bob responding, "Yeah, and I don't see what's wrong with it." He'd sulked. She'd fumed, and gone to sleep on the couch. Two weeks later, she told her agent not to bother submitting her head shot anymore, took the full-time publicity job at New Directions Theater at 8th Avenue and 18th Street, and moved out. I have put away childish things, she thought, as Bob leaned against the doorway, giving her the boxes she'd packed and wiping at his eyes. "Be good," he'd said, handing her a nine-by-nine square wrapped in plain brown paper, a portrait he'd painted of her, back when they were still in college. Grow up, she thought, kissing his stubbly, salty cheek and then walking down the rickety stairs with the scuffed rubber treads, past the hole that some new tenant's king-size bed had gouged out of the plaster wall. And, except for one rum-soaked weekend involving a few late-night phone calls and three trips past their old apartment, that had been that.


Excerpted from The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Weiner, Inc. . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of fourteen books, including Good in Bed, The Littlest Bigfoot, and her memoir Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing. A graduate of Princeton University and contributor to the New York Times Opinion section, Jennifer lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.

Brief Biography

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date of Birth:
March 28, 1970
Place of Birth:
De Ridder, Louisiana
B.A., Princeton University, 1991

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The Guy Not Taken 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Has a nice begining, but sarts off a little slow
CAROL-PINER-40 More than 1 year ago
when I first read a book by Jennifer Weiner, I knew that I would read anything of hers that I could get my hands on. Believe I have read them all now. She has humor, sadness, laughter and all of the ingredients that it take to make a book a good read. Hard to put down once you start so keep your day open.
wheeze More than 1 year ago
I read this book because I wanted to finish all of Jennifer Weiner's book. Mind you the stories are very very short, and don't go into a lot of depth, but it's certainly still interesting to read. It opens your eyes to your everyday life, that 'what ifs', and 'what nots'. I found the story about the mom/child and the temper tantrums. How she found a young mom in her class who seemed to be a wonderful mom, yet they grew apart. It's not the best book I have read in my entire life, but it's a good filler if you are waiting for something else to come out.
jlwNY More than 1 year ago
I didn't really like this book although I did finish it. I would not recommend this book over any of her other ones.
Charlotte_Isabella More than 1 year ago
I was slightly disappointed by this book. It seemed like her agent wanted her to do a book and she couldn't come up with anything so she just took a jumbled mess of ideas and stuck them in a book. I like her full fledged composed stories instead.
lec1727 More than 1 year ago
I found this book disappointing. It is a collection of short stories, but they are so well written that you could write a book about each one. I was irritated that the stories ended where they did. I stopped reading about halfway through because I was so disappointed.
Ellie_Black More than 1 year ago
Not one of Jennifers best. The book is a collection of short stories. From first glance you would think it was going to be stories about regretting past loves and what not, but the stories dont come together in the end and leave you quite confused. I was not satisfied with this book at all.
Kelsey83 More than 1 year ago
I usually love Jennifer Weiner's book, however was not impressed with this one. It was a bunch of short stories, some better than others. I hated that I would get into a story and it would end, with no real good conclusion. I would not reccomend this book, even though it was discounted.
Danielle084 More than 1 year ago
I could not get into this book. I'm a fan of Jennifer Weiner but this book was awful.
JustForSmiles More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Jennifer Weiner, but this book is horrible! I could not get through it, and I very rarely give up on a book. Numerous friends of mine also thought this book was a waste of time. I suggest reading ANY of her others besides this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am not much of a fan of short story writing but i loved loved this collection. I have always found Jennifer to be quite witty but I had reached a point where i was really getting weary of chick lit. I bought this for a long bus ride and fell in love with each and every story. She is extremely talented and the stories were amazing. Her talent for writing really shines through with this collection. highly recommended.
MissKirstennn More than 1 year ago
The Guy Not Taken is a book compiled of multiple short stories by Jennfier Weiner. I have loved all of her other books that I have read, but this one didn't really keep me as interested. I am not really a short story person which is the only reason why I didn't like this book as much as the others. Overall, the stories weren't bad.
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Jessica Karpiak More than 1 year ago
This is not the sort of thing I would typically read so I don't know how it stacks up within it's genre, but it was painfully awful. How does something like this even get published? It was like an undergrad creative writing project, awkward and shallow, lacking anything soulful or even insightful. I finish everything, not this. This wasn't worth the time. The author leaves her poor characters so flat that they aren't worth our concern or time. Was this put out for a quick pay day? Does the publisher have so little respect for readers that it would expect us to hand over our cash in exchange for this garbage? Don't waste your money, there are a lot of other good contemporary short stories out there.
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