Miranda Blue Calling
A friend of mine recommended Miranda Blue Calling to me, comparing it to Tim Farrington’s The Monk Downstairs. Since I enjoyed that book so much I was eager to try Michelle Curry Wright. Her writing voice isn’t at all the same as Farrington’s, and this book doesn’t contain any religious themes, but that same quiet melding of two broken but thoughtful characters is there. This is another touching story of new beginnings.
After souring on men following a number of bad experiences with losers, takers, and users, Miranda Blue moves from New York City to Aspen, Colorado, but her luck and her proclivity for bad boys follows her there and culminates in an abusive situation. So she decides to take a sabbatical, not just from men, but from all of humanity and goes to the most remote location possible she can find – in Otnip (“pinto” backwards), Colorado. She starts up a home business calling elderly shut-ins, keeping them company over the phone and assigning them interesting and inspirational reading so that her clients can occupy and challenge themselves.
Miranda couldn’t imagine anyone bothering her in Otnip, but she didn’t reckon on her neighbor, William Wordsworth Steadman. Billy is a hydroponic farmer who grows world class tomatoes and other herbs and vegetables for restaurants and other vendors. He himself escaped to Otnip after his young wife died of leukemia eight years ago and has been content with the solitude. But Miranda reawakens his curiosity about life, and he sets himself the Herculean task of bringing her out of her shell – or at least out of her house. But Miranda doesn’t trust Billy, and, more importantly, doesn’t trust her own judgment anymore. His continuous efforts to charm her are hard to resist, though. Will she be able to hold out against Billy and the world at large?
First of all, a big thank you to Michelle Curry Wright for giving the reading world Billy Steadman. What a nice guy he is. Kind, helpful, creative, thoughtful, and delightfully quirkly. I wanted to pinch him on both sets of cheeks. That Miranda can stand to rebuff him for as long as she does is a testament to human will and mule stubbornness. While it is true that she is operating under the mistaken impression that he dabbles in growing marijuana on the side (an impression that Billy has fostered just for the sheer perversity of it), it’s hard to understand how she can think Billy, the guy who gives her deerskin work gloves and putters around putting her house to rights, is in the same league with the hard-drinking, Harley-riding guys who came before him. Oh, to be pursued by a guy like Billy.
Miranda is occasionally obtuse in other areas. She seems oblivious to the effect she has on Billy and on men in general, and she underestimates her importance to her clients. Determined to prove her professionalism, she fails to realize that her collection of homebound clients care a great deal for her and can sense her loneliness. The parts of the book that focus on her conversations with them are charming. Miranda leads them in readings from the bible, Walt Whitman, Victor Hugo, the kabbalah. She encourages 92-year-old Evalina to do I Ching. But she doesn’t really understand why they might care more about what’s going on with the neighbor across the street than Leaves of Grass. And when Miranda lets her guard down on the phone about the police visiting Billy, her phone community gets more involved than she could have ever imagined.
Wright has an offbeat writing style in both description and dialogue. She clearly likes to play with words and their numerous meanings, and that manifests itself particularly strongly in Miranda and Billy’s conversations. They banter; they remember previous conversations and play with those words again. They use song lyrics and quotations to communicate with each other. Some of their dialogue might seem a bit inauthentic until you realize that these are two quick-witted people who have more than enough time on their hands to come up with clever things to say.
Miranda Blue Calling is a very hard book to categorize. If you scroll up to the top of this review, you’ll see that I labeled it Chick Lit. I did so primarily because of the imprint – Avon Trade. But this book isn’t written in first person point of view, and Billy does get to have his say. It’s also not set in a city, and the heroine isn’t a “career girl” in the usual sense of the word, although her work is very important to her. Really, this is just an old-fashioned love story, written in pretty pose, about nice characters who have been hurt before and are learning to love again. Exactly my kind of story.