A generations-old curse, a feisty grandmother and a heroine attempting to get back to the reality where she is married to her Prince Charming — there’s all this and more in Adena Halpern’s new novel, Pinch Me.
Morgan: Adena Halpern’s books are the perfect light read. Fun, uplifting, flirty, these are not “message” books. But in between the characters’ ridiculous adventures, a lesson slowly emerges — one that generally revolves around family and more specifically generations of women.
Whitney: And their difficulties in romance.
Morgan: True, although at the beginning of the story, our heroine, Lily, has a great love life! She is dating the most wonderful man. Smart, attentive, charming Gogo (yes, it’s a nickname) is perfect!
Whitney: So the story opens with Lily and Gogo at the top of the Eiffel Tower as Lily is trying to think up ways to not answer his marriage proposal.
Morgan: I’m not sure I have ever heard about a worse attempted proposal. Not on Gogo’s part. He set the scene perfectly — on one knee, huge diamond ring and a great speech. But Lily? Yeah, she messes it up really good.
Whitney: I mean, what’s a gal to do? If you aren’t ready to accept (or turn down) a proposal I think that going to order sandwiches — as she does — is a pretty decent way to buy yourself some time.
Morgan: And, in Lily’s defense, she has two of the most jaded women in the world giving her dating advice.
Whitney: Her sources are, I think it’s fair to say, horribly biased. Lily’s mother, Selma, and grandmother, Dolly, have a pretty serious agenda — they do not want their daughter/granddaughter marrying Mr. Right.
Morgan: I just love Dolly’s (dubious) romance wisdom. “Never marry a man unless he’s short, bald, fat, stupid and treats you badly.” Or how about this gem: “It’s the good ones who have something to hide. A bad egg can be our biggest blessing.”
Whitney: OK, that does sound kind of crazy, but they’ve got their reasons. And, I mean, if your expectations are low you are less likely to be disappointed. And like I said, they do have their reasons …
Morgan: True, but more on that later.
Whitney: Dolly and Selma are not only worried that Lily will marry the right man; they are terrified that Lily might be the perfect woman.
Morgan: There’s a great scene where they go back and forth lamenting how Lily’s so smart (they shouldn’t have let her get a library card), so fit (they shouldn’t have allowed her to join the cross-country running team in high school) and so thin (they should have force fed her fries, morning, noon and night).
Whitney: But they didn’t do any of those things, they just suggested — again and again — that Lily only look for losers instead of men who are quality boyfriend material. So all of her life she’s been turning down good guys let and right until Gogo came into the picture.
Morgan: You know I was kind of nervous that I wouldn’t be able to take a guy named Gogo seriously.
Whitney: I totally know what you mean! I spent a little bit of time wishing that the author had named him something else. But by the end of the story, I totally saw how the nickname fit him so perfectly.
Morgan: Speaking of perfect, Gogo makes me want to be a better partner. He writes love notes. He watches TV shows he doesn’t like because Lily enjoys them. He is a listener, a neat freak and loves to cook. I mean, its not like he doesn’t have any problems, but on the whole he is such a great guy.
Whitney: And it doesn’t hurt that he is a doctor.
Morgan: A wonderful doctor at that. One that cares about his patients.
Whitney: And he’s beautiful. Oh my god, his hair — I thought I was going to die of laughter when Lily lets us in on a little secret, and I’m paraphrasing here ...
“No joke, little old ladies come up to him on the street and ask to stroke his hair, and he totally lets them. That’s the kind of boyfriend he is.”
Morgan: He is so great in fact, that at first Lily can’t believe he is such a nice guy.
Whitney: The scenes when she questions his motives are hilarious.
Morgan: You mean like when Gogo asks Lily out and then — horrors — he shows up on time with flowers and pays for dinner.
Whitney: I was thinking more about the scene where, after making love for the first time, Lily tries to seek out of his house because she figures Gogo has other things to do. She even gets so far as to call a taxi and then he waves it off and drives her home himself, and it’s like four in the morning! ::sigh::
Morgan: Things are going great. A bit too great, so when things go wrong‚ they go really, really wrong.
Whitney: I think you can fairly say that getting married and then having your entire universe re-set so that your Prince Charming doesn’t know you from an ugly stepsister is a whole lot worse than “wrong.” That’s calamitous, it’s five-alarm fire bad, it’s an impending asteroid that is going to blow up Earth and you don’t have Ben Affleck to save everyone bad.
Morgan: Yes, it has disaster flick written all over it. And to add insult to injury, Lily isn’t the first woman who has had to suffer something like this. She finds out that her bloodline is cursed and that although the women in her family can find true love, it is impossible for them to keep true love.
Whitney: At least for the last three generations. It all started over a lie and a stolen boyfriend … actually I think that that’s a pretty good reason to curse someone.
Morgan: But this is a truly heinous curse. One that causes Lily to end up without her husband, without her job and for a short time, arrested and sitting in a jail cell with prostitutes.
Whitney: Well it’s certainly no walk in the park, but the little lie that Lily’s great-great-grandmother told was about cookies. She claimed that she invented chocolate chip cookies. That’s abhorrent. (The lying about the cookies, clearly not the cookies themselves, those are deeeelicious!)
Morgan: Still, it caused a lot of problems. Selma, Dolly, Dolly’s mother Hilde, these women all lost their husbands in ridiculous fashions. One ran away with the circus, one caused the stock crash of 1929.
Whitney: And then there were the husbands who became afflicted with ridiculous things, like excessive hair growth, and the one who became addicted to Coke — the soda — and became untrustworthy.
Morgan: What I think is interesting is that while most of us aren’t cursed (at least not as obviously as Lily), certainly any woman can relate to the fear of not being able to hold onto true love. So while we can laugh at the ridiculous ways that Selma and Dolly have “lost” their various husbands — it is actually really heartbreaking that they are not able to get their happily ever afters. Something that Lily starts to understand after she loses hers.
“I know [Dolly] and Selma have accepted the fact that romance is not an option. This has probably broken them in ways I don’t even know.”
So all of their crappy advice was to try to make sure that Lily never feels the loss that they have felt. They want her to never go through this heartbreak. But when Lily does, Selma explains to her that “Life doesn’t end just because you can’t be married to the man you love.” A hard lesson for anyone who —
Whitney: Morgan, I’m going to stop you right there. It’s a hard lesson for anyone!
Morgan: So there’s poor Lily without her husband and stuck in this alternate universe.
Whitney: I thought that Halpern did that really well; the transition wasn’t jarring (anymore than getting thrown into an alternate universe should be).
Morgan: Right, and this new universe really showcases how the choices we make end up making us who we are.
Whitney: At least that’s the truth for Gogo.
Morgan: Poor Gogo, in the new universe he still with his college girlfriend, Rhonda, who seems to bring out the worst in him. He is unhappy, unhealthy and ridiculously unsuccessful (he peddles downspouts for his father-in-law and trust me, if you don’t know what a downspout is already, don’t bother looking it up because it is just not worth it).
Whitney: And he doesn’t have his fabulous hair!
Morgan: Lily knows that without Rhonda, Gogo could have had a much better life. So she decides to “rehab” him.
“[I]t’s like that movie Regarding Henry, except he got boring instead of nice.”
Whitney: You know, I understand why she does this, she’s trying to get her husband back, but I had a hard time with some of her actions because in this universe he is married to Rhonda.
Morgan: Disagree! Lily is still married to him even though he doesn’t remember it. So her “project” really has the best intentions.
Whitney: True, and Rhonda is awful. Awwwful, just like Lily’s great-great-grandmother who got her into this mess.
Morgan: Exactly, so it makes sense that Lily tries to rescue Gogo from what he’s become by showing him how to be the best he can be. At first she focuses on the superficial, deciding to buy him new clothes and convince him to go to the gym, but then Lily realizes that what he really needs is confidence. Good for her.
Whitney: So Lily decides to help him out and starts “fixing” his life in small, but important ways. You know what this reminded me of? A less-subtle Amelie. And you know how much I heart that movie!
Morgan: I think it really says something about the way that Lily grows that even after Gogo has forgotten their relationship, Lily still considers herself lucky for ever having him even for a short time.
Whitney: She really does grow so much through this experience. At the beginning of the story she doesn’t think that she’s being superficial, but she totally is — only it’s the reverse of what you’d imagine because she’s only looking for guys who seem like scum. But then through Gogo and losing him ... it’s really very sweet.
Morgan: It makes me wonder if after being cursed, how many of us would have our partner come after us as hard as Lily goes after Gogo?
Whitney: Or how many of us would go after our partners as hard as she does? (Hopefully everyone out there! Because in my head each and every person reading this is in a relationship — or about to enter a relationship — that makes them as happy as Lily and Gogo are!)
Morgan: So anyone out there wants to find out if Lily and Gogo make it back to their rightful dimension, make sure to pick up Adena Halpern’s newest release Pinch Me, which is in stores now!