Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

I read some of the comments about Kemper Donovan's debut novel, The Decent Proposal. While the premise is interesting, and the contrast between the characters is certainly written effectively, somehow I missed what everyone seems to find delightful. Other reviewers have pointed out the humor, and that the book is a "romantic comedy". Missed that totally.

Richard Baumbach is twenty-nine, sculptured and good-looking, a partier who drinks too much, co-owner of a production company in L.A. that isn't doing well. He loves L.A., and he's broke. Elizabeth Santiago is a Latina lawyer who works so hard she's called La Maquina, The Machine. She's a voluptuous woman who loves New York, and leads a quiet, orderly life. And, some anonymous benefactor decides to offer them each a half million dollars if they'll spend two continuous hours a week for a year, talking to each other. They're not to search for the benefactor, and neither of them can figure out what they have in common or why someone selected them.

Would you do it, talk to someone for two hours a week? Richard desperately needs the money. Elizabeth has a pet project she would help with the money. While the first meetings couldn't have been any more awkward, the two finally stumble on discussions of books and movies. They're willing to give it a chance, but Richard's best friend, Michaela "Mike" Kim, isn't happy at all. Although she threw Richard over, now she's secretly in love with him, and she fears she'll lose him to Elizabeth.

Don't get me wrong. The Decent Proposal is an enjoyable debut novel with an intriguing premise. But sometimes I think I'm the wrong generation for novels that others find amusing. I fail to see the humor in sarcastic lines that cut other people down, or more than one character drinking until they pass out.

I can appreciate a premise that brings two unlikely people together for conversations about books and movies, conversations that force them to look at each other with fresh eyes. In fact, the plot seems to deal with the recent experiments with people who ask each other questions, and find they fall in love. Given two hours a week for a year, time spent in conversation, will two people fall in love? Kemper Donovan poses that interesting question in The Decent Proposal.

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan. HarperCollins. 2016. ISBN 9780062391629 (hardcover), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book in order to participate in the book tour.


Janet Schneider said...

Great review, Lesa! I liked it too but had similar reservations. The LA setting felt vivid and alive; I'm interested to see what Donovan does next.

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

Lesa said...

Good to know I'm not the only one with those reservations, Janet. Thanks!