“The problem was that love didn’t creep up on a person the way it did in so many books and movies. … Like every other miracle, it came all at once, fully formed, and once seen, it was impossible to unsee.”
– Kemper Donovan, The Decent Proposal
When I started reading The Decent Proposal, I was full and ready to give in to light, summer reading. (It helped that it was almost 20 degrees in Toronto this weekend!) And while I certainly got my rom com fix for the weekend, I discovered so much more in Kemper Donovan’s new novel, The Decent Proposal.
Richard Baumbach is a struggling Hollywood producer. At twenty-nine, he spends his nights partying and his days hungover. Despite being broke, he firmly believes that his big breakout moment is still to come. He and his best friend and old flame Mike (short for Michaela) dream of making it big in Hollywood.
Elizabeth Santiago is a successful LA lawyer. At thirty-three, she is known in her office as “La Máquina,” The Machine. She puts in more hours than anyone else, and she’s on track to be made partner.
The two have absolutely nothing in common. Until they are contacted by a lawyer and told that some mysterious benefactor has decided to pay them a half a million dollars each. IF they agree to meet once a week for two hours to talk. Just talk. There are no other demands. Confused, the pair agree to the proposal set before them.
Of course, in true rom com fashion, that’s not where the story ends. The story is filled with everything we know and love from romantic comedies, including the many twists and turns that help to bring these seemingly opposite people together. The story of Elizabeth and Richard coming together was everything I had hoped it would be. The totally unrealistic situation that everyone dreams about but never actually expects. The many miscommunications and pitfalls that many people experience as the stumble into new relationships. It was the perfect lighthearted summer story I had originally been expecting.
What really won me over, though, was this novel’s incredible cast of supporting characters: Orpheus Washington and his absolutely heartbreaking story; Jonathan Hertzfeld and his own romance with his wife Rivka, whose storyline could warm even the coldest of hearts; and the eccentric Beverly Chambers, whose role in the story is the unknown that pervades much of the plotline.
And it’d be wrong if I were to write this review and not talk about Donovan’s writing. Romantic comedies are not the books that you expect to find sweeping passages so beautiful that you have to re-read them. But, trust me, you find them in Donovan’s new novel. His descriptions of Los Angeles, in particular, struck me. It’s a city that I’ve never experienced, and yet felt as if I was walking around there. Donovan’s affection for his city is clear throughout the novel.
The Decent Proposal is an incredible story about people coming together, and how the people we meet can become a part of who we are, in ways we could never have expected. It’s heartfelt and addictively readable.
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