We’ve all known at least one of these people at some point in our lives (and some of us are related to one): People who are too smart for the world around them and are made to suffer for it. Carrie Pilby is a chick-lit book, so its ending is not much in question, but the way author Caren Lissner takes us on her heroine’s journey is a bit different, and her writing is excellent.
Carrie is a recent college graduate, a nineteen year-old who skipped three grades and went to Harvard. She is well aware of how smart she is, and has spent her whole life trying to make connections with people so she will not feel so alone. Living in New York City, funded by her mostly absent banker father, she has various tasks with which to occupy her days so she won’t end up spending all of her time in bed. Most notably, she sees a therapist (paid for by her father) who asks her to complete the tasks on a short list. Her tasks might not seem daunting – they are as simple as telling someone she cares and going on a date – but to Carrie, who views the world, and the people in it, as hypocritical, sex-obsessed, and of course, dumber than she, it is. What makes her unique is her ability to see some of her own foibles, while she continues to be blinded by others. She tries really hard to fulfill the tasks, even though she thinks the assignment itself is stupid (she can tear its substance apart in less time than it takes other folks to order a cup of coffee).
Along the way, Carrie meets a host of interesting characters, who are neither as black nor white as they first seem. It is Carrie’s journey to discovering that there are varying degrees to everyone’s sex obsession, immorality, and hypocrisy that propels the book’s action along, and her ruminations on the world around her is beyond clever. It is my habit to dog-ear pages that strike me as quote-worthy, and this one has more dog’s ears than the local pound. For example, when her Dad asks about her love-life, Carrie thinks:
“I wonder what it’s like to be a father of a daughter and know that eventually, she is going to be defiled in some way. It may take thirteen years, or seventeen years, or thirty-one, but sooner or later, your princess is going to have a prince’s jewels in her silk pillow. I guess you either have to not think about it or pretend it doesn’t exist. Like headcheese.”
She has many, many more nuggets of wisdom that effortlessly combine her great thoughts with some mundane contemporary life reference – the joy of having new pair of socks, what it feels like when a past romance turned suddenly sour, the outfits politicians wear when in the “Politician State of Emergency Rolling up My Sleeves Outfit”. There were times during Carrie Pilby where I caught myself laughing out loud, and other times where Lissner described Carrie’s pain so well it was painful even to read.
Although there was not a lot of action in the book – Carrie’s external life is much the same at the beginning of the book as it is at the end – there was a lot of change within Carrie, told through her very funny, very insightful interior monologue. It is hard to write this kind of story without making your heroine seem judgmental, snotty or just plain unlikable, but Lissner manages it handily. When the book ended, I was sad because I wanted to spend more time with Carrie, and wanted to enjoy her HEA a bit longer with her.