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The Idea of Love


The Idea of Love

There’s a saying in the South that goes “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.” So it’s fortunate for the reader that the protagonists of Patti Callahan Henry’s latest novel take this adage to heart.

Screenwriter Blake Hunter is searching for a story. Just off a string of box office flops, he is desperate to find inspiration for his next great romantic film. His desperation is such that he has abandoned Los Angeles for the scenic shore towns of the southeastern U.S. While in South Carolina, he adopts the guise of Hunter Adderman, a travel writer researching coastal towns for his next book, in the hopes that he’ll stumble across someone willing to share their story with him. Maybe this real-life inspiration is the thing he’s been lacking. His life at home has been anything but inspiring: his ex-wife hardly conceals her contempt for him, and his teenage daughter, Amelia, has barely spoken more than a few words to him --- that is, when he even acknowledges him. But Blake is completely unprepared when he meets Ella Flynn, a forlorn-looking woman he encounters in a café in Watersend, South Carolina. Once he hears her tragic story of lost love, he’s convinced he’s found the lynchpin for his next film.

"...a welcome addition to Henry’s canon and should be a favorite among book clubs that will enjoy dissecting the big issues of life, love and little white lies."

That’s the funny thing about stories, though --- it’s all about the perspective from which it’s coming. Ella had shared with Blake the tragic story of her husband Sims’ drowning as he attempted to save her after she had fallen overboard. She bore the look of someone who had lost her best friend and was having trouble finding her ballast without them. Blake had used his facade of "Hunter, the travel writer" when introducing himself to Ella, hoping this would put her at ease. Upon hearing her story and seeing the wistful look in her eyes, Blake is convinced that he has happened upon a story of lost love that could resurrect his career.

But here’s the thing: Ella is heartbroken and forlorn, to be sure, but not for the reason you think. Sims never perished at sea. He had left her for her best friend’s sister, Betsy. Out of nowhere, he came home and told her he was in love with someone else. Ella never saw it coming: “Their marriage had been easy and peaceful, the way it should be when two people settle into something that passes from infatuation and passion to love and domestic harmony… But while she felt settled, somewhere along the line Sims had felt like he was settling. Big difference.” She told Hunter what she thought he wanted to hear; what she secretly wished was true. Somehow imagining Sims dead and therefore not capable of such atrocities as infidelity and abandonment was more palatable. She couldn’t face the fact that despite her very-much-alive husband’s affair, she was the one to move out of their home and into a sad apartment complex known colloquially as “Crumbling Chateau.”

The one bright spot of the recent move is her downstairs neighbor, Mimi, and her yappy but endearing dog, Bruiser. Mimi is a beacon of positivity and experience who offers Ella sage advice that can only be gleaned from traversing life’s difficult challenges.

However, the one thing neither Hunter nor Ella anticipated was that their respective stories would touch the other, and before long, each would find themselves falling in love. Life, though, has a way of complicating the simplest of endeavors. Hunter is having a relationship with his young assistant back in L.A. Sims has started showing signs of regret and remorse over his actions. And, of course, both Ella and Hunter are still operating under false pretenses. Can they confess their truths and move forward, or will their lies threaten to tear everything asunder? Will they get their Hollywood happy ending?

Patti Callahan Henry once again has set the scenic stage for a beautiful but complicated romance, the course of which never runs smoothly. In THE IDEA OF LOVE, her complex characters must face thorny situations to make their own Hollywood happy ending. It is a welcome addition to Henry’s canon and should be a favorite among book clubs that will enjoy dissecting the big issues of life, love and little white lies.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on June 25, 2015

The Idea of Love
by Patti Callahan Henry

  • Publication Date: June 21, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250093864
  • ISBN-13: 9781250093868