The hero and heroine of Unfinished Business couldn’t be more different: black and white, bleeding-heart liberal and ultra-conservative, urban and rural, peace activist and war hero. I admit that some personal politics made me wary of the book, as I didn’t see myself liking the hero.
Erica Johnson teaches school in Washington, D.C. She’s sick of the war, sick of poor government school funding, sick of bad welfare programs that leave children hungry, and sick of conservatives in general. So she goes to a Senate committee hearing and protests. While being dragged out by police, she challenges Southern Republican Senator Mark Newman to visit her school.
Mark is a good ole Southern boy, arrogant, handsome, a injured war hero, and an ultra-conservative – he’s not about to let Erica Johnson win. He meets her challenge, and issues one in return: Spend a week in his district to see the other side of the issue. And, despite the advice from his staff and friends, he can’t help but be fascinated by Erica — even though she’s a granola.
But, when Erica starts receiving incriminating pictures of Mark and Erica with racist threats, and Mark’s once slam-dunk primary narrows to a close race, the potential relationship between the two of them is called into question.
The book deals with a lot of current issues — the war in Iraq, interracial marriages, education, and the threat of terrorism — but they didn’t over-power the plot. Sure, they were pretty involved, as Erica and Mark argued over politics almost every other page, but the book wasn’t a cleverly disguised soap box. I think the book presented real problems that real people face in building a relationship. Not everyone must deal with the way the public will perceive their relationship, as Mark and Erica do, but the issue of race and politics can destroy a couple if they let it. The way they handled the pressure seemed very realistic to me, and that made the conclusion all the sweeter.
My problems with the book are minor. Erica’s best friend and Mark’s chief of staff become involved, but their romance was so minimal it was essentially non-existent. I wished for more. Perhaps a slightly bigger problem was the ending, which was a little melodramatic and unnecessary. Even so, Unfinished Business makes for very good reading and I highly recommend it.