Name and Address Withheld
I was so lost in parts of this book. It’s British. Very, very British. The author drops names of people, products, television shows and popular music all through the narrative and, while I am pretty good at deciphering British English, I’m not so au courant when it comes to contemporary British popculture. However, I persevered and was rewarded with a nice, meaty story – chick lit without the usual neurotic characters that I associate with that particular genre.
Lizzie Ford is an agony aunt (think Dear Abby). She’s thirtyish, successful, happy with her career and friends, and longs for that special someone but hasn’t yet met him. One evening at an office party Lizzie meets Matt Baker, an advertising copywriter. Matt and Lizzie click and spend the party talking to each other and having a wonderful time. Later, they meet for a date and end up in bed, where they have a mutually satisfying relationship. Can Matt be the One for Lizzie?
Well, there’s just one problem. Matt is married. He and his wife Rachel are living in the same home, but are leading separate lives. Rachel is career-oriented – so focused on her job and her life at the office that she and Matt go for days and days without speaking to each other. Rachel wants to climb the corporate ladder while Matt is fine and happy where he is, and senses that Rachel looks down on him and thinks he lacks ambition. Rachel knows there is something wrong in her marriage, so she does something she never thought she’d do. She writes a letter to her favorite agony aunt, Lizzie Ford.
In almost every romance I have read where adultery features in the plot, one of the characters is evil. He or she is either cruel, impotent, or crazy, thus driving the other person into the arms of the hero or heroine. That’s not the case here.
Neither Matt nor Rachel nor Lizzie is evil. Matt did not set out to commit adultery. He is deeply unhappy in his marriage, and had been thinking of divorce but just had not gotten around to it. He suffers agonies of guilt for deceiving Lizzie and breaking his marriage vows. Lizzie also suffers not only because of Matt’s deception, but also because she has come to love him dearly. But she is no home-wrecker and when she finds out, she immediately breaks it off. And while Rachel is not as sympathetic as either Matt or Lizzie, she is no stereotypical evil wife. Some of her actions as the story progresses may be regretful, but are motivated more by hurt than malice, which is a nicely nuanced bit of writing.
Lizzie’s best friend and flat-mate Clare is a wonderful supporting character. She filed for divorced after she found her husband cheating on her, and at first she lets Lizzie have it good for her part in coming between Matt and Rachel. But later, Clare proves to be supportive, sympathetic and level-headed, and she gets a second chance at love as well.
I’ve learned never to say never. Normally I don’t care for Chick Lit and I don’t like adultery stories, but I did like Name & Address Withheld. The characters were adults, not arrested adolescents, the story wasengrossing, and if I missed about 90% of the British pop culture references – well I guess I can’t have it all.