Out of the Blue
Out of the Blue is a book that so badly wants to be liked that it forgoes risks in order to do so. Pity. This is the kind of novel that could have opened up vistas of the human mind. As is, it’s simply a love story, and a nice one at that. But it pales in stark comparison to what it might have been.
Anna, an accomplished athlete, has developed multiple sclerosis; something she takes in stride until she falls in love with Joe, a successful, but emotionally closed businessman/pilot/photographer. They both realize they’re in love but, in the slow, bumbling way of so many people who fall in love, they don’t do anything about it until some serious self-examination has been completed.
The problem is that there’s not too much to examine. Like I’ve said, this is a sweet boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back love story. Joe and Anna are nice people. So nice, in fact, that they hardly take the time to be angry at, or even think about their myriad of problems. Denial is a key theme of the book, but even the reader is left in the dark about key scenes. Why doesn’t Joe talk about his father? Why does Anna resist new treatments for her illness? Not only do the characters not know, but the readers don’t either, leaving major scenes to speculation.
Even the chemistry between the two is kept concealed. For a relationship to work, there needs to be at least some spark but, aside from some heady conversation, it’s hard to believe that these two aren’t just roommates. Sex is talked about just as much as it’s accomplished, and kisses are described in a nearly clinical fashion.
Out of the Blue does find its saving grace in Joe’s father, Gus, who lights up every scene he’s in. More in tune with his feelings than his son, he at least offers some insight his inner self. Anna’s mother, in contrast, is strong and beautiful enough to have beget a wonderful heroine, but we rarely see inside her head, either.
Through the course of the novel, Anna has predictable complications with her MS, and Joe stoically comes to her aid time and time again. Mandel does a good job in describing the disease and the pain it causes, but again, Anna’s feelings about it don’t become clear to the end. In a book about a disease, the disease needs to become a secondary character, affecting, either subconsciously or consciously, the actions of the other characters. Anna’s MS doesn’t do so.
All of this is a shame because, Out of the Blue could have been a heart-wrenching drama about a couple overcoming literal forces of nature to be together. As it is, it’s a cute love story about two well-meaning people who want to be together but are never really given an opportunity to learn the meaning of the word.