Friday, May 13, 2016

Moment of Everything by Shelly King

Reviewed by Ambrea

Maggie Dupres has been “involuntarily separated from payroll”—in other words, she was fired from the Silicon Valley start-up she helped create.  Now, as she waits for the Next Big Thing to come along, she spends her days browsing the stacks at Dragonfly Used Books, a Mountain View institution, and reading tawdry romance novels to fill her time.  Exhausted from her job search, she jumps at the chance of networking with a Bay Area book club—even if it means revisiting Lady Chatterly’s Lover, a book she doesn’t exactly recall with fondness.

But as Maggie explores the old hardcover edition given to her by Hugo, the Dragonfly’s eccentric proprietor, she discovers love notes scribbled in the margins.  Enchanted by the romantic exchange of these lovers, Maggie sets out to discover who these lovers were and what happened to them.  In her search for answers, Maggie unexpectedly discovers the truth behind the beautiful notes jotted into Lady Chatterly’s margins and learns some astonishing things about herself in the process.

I loved reading The Moment of Everything.  Maggie Dupres is a witty, vibrant narrator among a cast of funny, eccentric characters.  She’s clever, but she’s also capable.  Along with Dizzy, her best friend, she basically starts a company from the ground up—and then, when she finds herself in an economic rut, she eventually manages to make the best of it and befriends one of the most powerful ladies in the Silicon Valley.

Maggie is a strong, capable person, and she’s a wonderful narrator to boot.  Her story isn’t particularly extraordinary—heck, it’s the story that a good number of readers have faced with the economic recession—but she tells it so well.  It’s a sweet, romantic story, but it has a punch of reality to it that makes it well worth reading.

Although it’s easy to characterize it as a romance novel, I think it’s best read as a personal narrative, as Maggie’s personal narrative.  Her story can’t be simply quantified as a romance—that’s far too constricting—rather it encompasses a broad range of human experiences from love to heartbreak and financial uncertainty and job security.  Moreover, it’s a good story that I feel can appeal to a lot of people who find themselves in her shoes, jobless and searching for what’s missing in her life.  I find I enjoyed it from cover to cover, and not just because it’s based in a bookstore.

Furthermore, I loved all the other characters involved, especially Hugo.  Oh, I liked Jason—and Dizzy was a charmer, being both wonderfully fabulously and hilariously funny—but there was something particularly special about Hugo.  He’s full of strange wisdom and unusual life experiences.  He’s a kind-hearted person with an eccentric streak, a romantic disposition to rival Casanova, and a (probably) unhealthy love of books.

And I adored Hugo for it.

I can easily see why Maggie loved and respected him as both an employer and a friend.  He seems a bit nutty, but beneath that veneer of eccentricity, he’s incredibly intelligent and, like Maggie, he’s quick-witted.  Their friendship is rich and wonderful, and their dialog is an unusual kind of perfection that I just can’t accurately describe.  Their verbal exchanges had me cracking up at every opportunity.

I feel like I get the best of both worlds with The Moment of Everything:  a good story and good, solid characters.  Honestly, I have no complaints about Shelly King’s novel.  It’s one of those unusual stories where the more I dwell on it, the more I like it—and I can’t help falling in love with the Dragonfly each and every time I envision it.

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