G. Bianco, 2019
Everyone makes lists in their life. Whether it’s a grocery list, a to-do list, or what music to add to your playlist, everyone finds little scraps of paper or random notes on their phones with random thoughts or items on it. In Matthew Dicks’s Twenty-one Truths About Love, the protagonist not only writes lists about everything; it’s the only thing the reader sees.
Daniel Mayrock loves his wife Jill more than anything. However, he is scared because he is in the midst of a financial crisis, Jill wants to start a family, and Dan’s life isn’t what he thought it would be. Through Dan’s obsessive list-making, the reader sees what lengths a man will go to in order to save his family, his failing bookstore, and become someone special. Looking at the world through his eyes, Dan’s humor and personal thoughts shine through as he struggles to be the man he wishes he could be.
While the novel was a little tough to get into, it ultimately became an intriguing look into a middle-aged man’s life as he grapples with the circumstances around him. The lists were a surprisingly effective way to learn about Dan and what his thought process was throughout the span of the book.
Sometimes, the lists were tedious and boring, but other times they were able to convey just the right emotions in the perfect way. Daniel’s sarcasm and humor is very specific and he’s not afraid to offend anyone in his list-making. But that is what makes this novel work! The lists Dan makes are only for his eyes; therefore, he is unabashedly himself in his writing. While sometimes Dan makes bizarre observations and comments (for example: “Why does everyone like Friends so goddamn much?” or his list of “The worst people in the world”), other times he is insightful in ways that are beautiful. In one of his lists he says “We undoubtedly underestimate people on an everyday basis” and later on realizes “I write lists so I won’t stop existing like my father stopped existing for me.” These little blips of Dan’s thoughts are woven together to create a humorous, yet beautiful, look into an ordinary person’s mind and what they will do in order to become extraordinary.
The only thing this novel lacks is depth in the character department. The upside to the lists is how deep into Dan’s mind the reader gets to see. The downside is that same reason: we only get to see inside Dan’s mind. However, other characters are revealed through Dan’s interactions recorded via lists.
If you are a reader who enjoys descriptions and detailed accounts of setting and characters, this may not be the book for you. However, for anyone looking for a fresh take on how a story can be formed by a few sentences compiled together, then Twenty-one Truths About Love will be a unique reading experience. This is definitely a book to check out on November 19th.
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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