Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On the Bookshelf: Something Borrowed (yeah, my time)


Something BorrowedSomething Borrowed by Emily Giffin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I will never stop blaming John Krasinski for making me want to read this book.  After seeing snippets of trailers for the "film" adaptation, I thought to myself, "you know what, it's been a while since you've read a ridiculous literary rom-com".  And so there I was purchasing a book, all because the casting director had known the quickest route through my psyche.  Well, it turns out, my psyche is a dirty liar.

The novel which is the basis of said adaptation, it turns out, is little more than an unbelievably idiotic romp through the brain of a naive, oddly neurotic woman, named Rachel, who steals her best friend's fiancee, in no uncertain terms.  I'm sure that it's supposed to be some sort of statement about forward thinking Steinem-influenced women, who are determined to make it through life on their own terms, you know "sisters doing it for themselves" and Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat in the air and all that, but what it ends up as is a 1950s Betty Crocker box of brownies but with a prize at the bottom: a set of plastic pearls to vacuum in.

Initially, I was going to give this book 2 stars, because I sometimes just give a star for an author who manages to get something published, in addition to writing a book that I finished, but after mulling it over, I realized that my generosity has its limits.  Or, while we're talking about female stereotypes, maybe I should just go ahead and blame my hormones. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got, perhaps because I was using my brain to, well, think, unlike 90% of the characters in this book.

Rachel and Darcy both grew up in Indiana (ironically just like myself) and moved to the big, crazy metropolitan of New York City.  Rachel's a lawyer, aka the smart one.  Darcy is a PR schemer, aka the pretty one.  On the eve of Rachel's 30th (GASP!) birthday, after a lengthy night of drinking, Darcy's fiancee, Dex, who is, of course, a total dreamboat and whom Rachel had the heretofore unacknowledged "finders keepers" rule with since she went to law school with him, offers to get Rachel home safely.  Meanwhile the callous Darcy leaves to get the proper amount of beauty sleep and presumably brush her hair exactly one hundred times. As tends to happen in these crazy,drunken, going-home-with-your-friend's-fiancee-situations, they sleep together.

What follows is a summer, mostly narrated through Rachel's mind, filled with longing glances, fingers crossed for emails and illicit text messages, sulking around their Hamptons' time share (because they can't be together right under Darcy's nose...duh!) and the constant comparison of herself to Darcy.  I'll admit there were times reading it where I thought, "oh I've thought that before" quickly followed by the realization of why people told me to stop comparing myself to others...in high school.  Because comparing yourself to others on a near constant basis is extremely annoying.  What we get from Rachel's point of view is that Darcy is shallow, self-centered, the queen of Bridezillas, whiny, inconsiderate, manipulative, and vaguely racist (blaming the loss of your 2.3 carat diamond engagement ring on the stealthy, stealing fingertips of the Puerto Rican woman who cleans the home of your slovenly male mister is a bit low, or is that just me?).  What we get about Rachel is that she's supposedly, the complete opposite.  A good girl, who slogs through long hours at a job she (repeatedly states she) hates, she's a people-pleaser who doesn't upset the apple cart, who is always cleaning up Darcy's messes and who always feels she comes in second.  As an aside note to Rachel, you know why you feel like you come in second?  Because you always let Darcy win.  Never once, even at the end when Darcy catches Dex and Rachel, does Rachel ever stand up to Darcy.  Instead she cowers meekly, bemoaning the fact that she can't have both her best friend and "the love of her life".  How is this "a heroine you can root for" as someone states on the back of the binding?  I mean, I'll lay it out for you clearly.  Rachel is no Lizzie Bennett.  The climax of the novel, I believe is supposed to be the moment when Rachel yells to Dex "Don't marry Darcy, choose me," and all I could think was, "you don't think you could have mustered up the strength to say that about 3 weeks and many evenings spent hiding out in your apartment ago?" along with "why are you STILL friends with Darcy?!" every five minutes.

It turns out, all that time that Rachel and Dex were spending snuggled on her couch saying they were "working" and ordering Thai food, gave Darcy a little time to stray herself.  In case any reader missed it the several times Rachel says it to herself, it turns out, Darcy and Dex are not perfect for each other. This is proven by having Darcy, yet again, one-up Rachel.  It turns out that the only scale that Darcy will ever be tipping is the one that measures how bad of a person you are, because not only does she cheat on the somehow infallible Dexter, but she also gets PREGNANT, by an inferior  specimen of man, the ultimate no-no in the sister code.  Although after reading this book, I don't think there's such a things as friendship codes amongst women, really more just a brutal game of emotional chicken that you play with other females who can stand to be around you for more than a month.

There are two characters whose words and demeanors actually make sense in a world resembling our real one, and that's Hilary and Ethan.  Hilary, the "tomboy" girl who says what she thinks and does what she wants (gosh darn the consequences) is the only semblance of sanity in the New York world described for us.  She's supposedly headstrong and independent but then by the end of the book, she has to be brought down a peg or two. She's given a new boyfriend that she falls head over heels in love with, only to be angry when he won't tell her about his exes.  Ethan fares better, probably because he decided to take the one way ticket from crazy town, to the connection in Getmeouttahere all the way to London.  Good for him.  He's apparently been telling Rachel for years to get away from this toxic friendship, and it took realizing that she's loved Dex all along, although she didn't know it until 2 months before his wedding, to make it really sink in.

Perhaps, I'm jaded.  Maybe I just don't understand the pull of true love but this is the book that made me think to myself "maybe chick lit is really just a 'fantasy' genre for women".  It's mildly sexulaized, filled with ridiculous tropes of characters who can barely be called human.  Oh well, I'm glad I read it because now I'll feel less guilty about watching the movie.  After all, the only thing there is to being a woman in this world is fantasizing over the dreamboat who will hide in your closet while you refuse to tell your friend the truth.  Well that and some fresh mozzarella, but hopefully, the low-fat kind.  And John Krasinski is a total dreamboat.


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