Livesey's lively comedy of errors
We've all, at one point or another, committed acts we wish we could take back. In Margot Livesey's seriocomic romp of a novel, Verona MacIntyre, a single, pregnant, 37-year-old London radio talk-show host, engages in a series of serious faux pas. First she hoodwinks handyman Zeke Cafarelli 29, a "Raphael angel" lookalike with a mild case of Asperger's syndrome into letting her spend the night in the house he's renovating by claiming to be the owners' niece. Then she vanishes but not before capturing his heart. The remainder of the book alternates viewpoints as he tries to reunite with her, and she, equally smitten but on the lam from her feckless brother's financial malfeasance, leads him on a far-from-merry chase to Boston and back to London.
The question of "will they, or won't they?" (ever get together again) engenders plenty of suspense, right up to the last chapter when they're finally on the same continent and just starting to face the trust issues that confront all potential couples. Meanwhile, we've been afforded generous glimpses into the souls of these seemingly mismatched lovers: sophisticated Verona, whose very high-mindedness puts her at risk when it comes to her brother's machinations (not to mention the Pinteresque goons on his trail), and emotionally naive Zeke, who's "no good at metaphors and subtexts and other people's problems" but nonetheless has a knack for getting roped into them not just Verona's, but his parents', as their marriage hurtles toward disintegration. Though the plot could easily fit the rubric of chick lit, the depth of the characters vaults it into another category entirely. Despite occasional longueurs (Zeke's first plane trip belabors the "innocent abroad" shtick), the narrative offers a rich and rewarding voyage into two very distinctive interior lives, which might, with any luck, find a match and move forward as one.
Sandy MacDonald writes from Massachusetts.