The Lonely Fajita
The biggest problem The Lonely Fajita has is that you’ve seen ninety percent of the things that happen between its covers in other books. Import Bridget Jones into Fried Green Tomatoes, transport the whole thing to London and ladle in some cursing and you have its general formula. It’s the supporting characters that bring the book to just below a recommendable level, and the heroine who keeps it from climbing higher.
Elissa Evans is having something of a shit birthday. It starts with a pap smear, moves onto a shift at her tech startup internship where her boss is a nightmare and her wages poverty-level, and ends with the shattering of her relationship with her persnickety boyfriend Tom who breaks their lease on a shared flat they could both barely afford without bothering to acknowledge her birthday. In between, she auditions to become the housemate of an elderly woman. It’s an event that, in the end, will change her life.
Annie De Loutherberg is a frisky, sharp-tongued eighty-three-year-old who clicks immediately with Elissa. Soon, Elissa has moved into Annie’s home as a companion, but Annie is the one giving Elissa insight into everything, from her job to the possibility of a new love, with wit, wisdom, and heavy application of fajita nights. But Elissa must learn how to balance her wants with Annie’s – and when she embarks upon a mission to find Annie’s lost son, she may end up in over her head.
Elissa is, in a word, a problem. Screechy and immature, she manages to climb her way to adulthood before the end of the book, at, to be frank, the detriment of the reader’s nerves. She flails about, she never expresses an ability to use forethought, and she comes off as a lobotomized version of Bridget Jones. Annie is much better and more complicated, but she does smack of that old fictional stereotype, the magical old lady who fixes a young person’s life with her Auntie Mame-esque spiritual largesse.
I liked Elissa’s friend, practical adult teacher Maggie much better, and also her equally foul-mouthed best friend Suki, and Suki’s dramatic significant other, Jazz. What a pair Suki and Annie might have made, but instead Elissa swallows up the narrative and drowns them out. It’s a shame that the book’s about her, because any of the other women central to the narrative might have proved more interesting.
But the book is just funny enough – with its befuddled junior girl scouts and ridiculous office politics and fun little drunken side trips – that there’s enough left to make the ride enjoyable. The Lonely Fajita is just average due to its lack of courage, but at least it gives the reader the feel-good journey it promises right on the cover without getting too saccharine.