Sunday, July 31, 2011

Barcelona Calling by Jane Kirkpatrick

Annie Shaw is a romance writer. She has had one book sell well but is now struggling. Her last didn't sell all that well and her publisher is stalling on the present manuscript.
Annie has four close friends who help her, giving her ideas of how to promote her upcoming novel and then participating in the schemes. Annie wants to be a famous author and is willing to do just about anything to see that happen.
The top choice is getting Oprah to recognize the book – that would make it an instant bestseller. One friend knows Oprah's dog groomer so Annie gets a dog and an appointment. Disaster (and repair bills) result. Another try is Oprah's previous chef. A tipped candle and fire sprinklers douse that plan. No matter what Annie and the friends try, another disaster results.
Annie stumbles on and on, trying to get her latest novel to “work.” She meets with her editor and is slightly attracted to him. They try to rewrite parts of the novel and spruce up the ending.
Annie's newest novel is somewhat biographical, telling the story of her trip to Barcelona and meeting the handsome man who wants to marry her. When her friends arrange for him to visit her in the United States, Annie must make a choice.

For me, this was not a rewarding read. I have read several of Kirkpatrick's historical novels and, in general, liked them. This contemporary, humorous style is something new for her. It was silly. The humor in the book is sort of “slap stick” comedy. It is almost as if Kirkpatrick heard of a funny disaster, (like a dog getting loose at a pet groomers, knocking down things, breaking bottles) and then was determined to find a place for it in her novel.
The romance in the book was unrewarding. We hear of this mysteries Jaime, a character in Annie's book based on the real fellow she met in Barcelona. When he comes to visit Annie, the whole scene is very anticlimactic, kind of odd, actually.
In the end, the novel is redeeming in that all five women realize a change in their lives for the better – something they did not even know they were looking for. One finds a man. Another starts eating healthier. One decides she and her husband will adopt a child.
And Annie realizes she does not want the fame she craved. She'll go back to teaching and perhaps write children's books.
But then the very last scene in the book kind of ruined it for me. Oprah comes to hear of Annie's book after all. I see that Kirkpatrick might mean this to be a “lay it all on the altar” kind of experience. Annie has given up promoting her book, then, boom, Oprah hears of it.
However, throughout the novel the level of Annie's struggles were not spiritual at all. She never struggles in prayer to God about her writing. The novel is pretty light hearted, no serious ruminations about what God wants for her life. So for the last scene to have spiritual overtones is totally out of character for the rest of the novel.
I think the last scene is just supposed to be funny – you tried so hard yourself, Annie, and now it just happens, almost accidentally. To me, it almost validates Annie's attempts to promote her book. The answer to success is Oprah after all.
Some may find this style of writing fun to read. I did not.

Zondervan, 320 pages, releasing September, 2011.

I received an egalley from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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