Monday, January 3, 2011

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Plot: Anne Blythe is a talented writer working at a magazine while putting the finishing touches on her first novel. Her latest relationship has just fallen apart, finding out the man who she's trusted was cheating on her.  Anne then begins to bump into a few more of her ex boyfriends, all whom are now married.  She discovers a business card for what she thinks is a simple dating service and after hearing that her best friend is engaged, decides to try it. Anne soon learns that they are more then just a dating service, but a company that performs arranged marriages. Anne turns this chance discovery into a new column for the magazine, her research leading her to join up herself. The matchmakers pair her up with a man who could be considered perfection, only to find out he's not what he seems after the wedding.

Is love by chance or illusion?  In this case it's both.
Once again, Catherine McKenzie offers up vivid characters who have a sense of witty sadness to them, that makes them very real.

I'm at a loss for words on this one folks. I can't review this book without comparing it to my own life. Which means once again Catherine McKenzie has hit the nail perfectly on the head, she knows her audience with a bullet point. 

The situation that the character Anne is in- in her 30's unmarried, a writer, a redhead, who's past boyfriends have moved on while she's still stuck- it's as if the author Catherine McKenzie were exposing pieces of my own life. I kept reading hoping she had a solution for me, then I remembered this was a novel. A beautifully sculptured piece of fiction that just happens to ring true.

The character of Anne's mother, who is currently on the edge of her own reality and not really paying too close of attention to Anne,  was a brilliant element of distance. (Also too close to home for my nerves.) Even though she's a minor character, the mother was a fresh view, given most mothers in modern fiction are too involved, too annoying.

There are moments when you find yourself wanting to slap the character of Jack and then give him the benefit of the doubt.  From the scene where he takes Anne boating you're left with this sense of menace that melts into a feeling of "maybe they got it right this time". I can not tell you how many times I sighed thinking if only there were more real men like this. 

In this day and age,  almost everyone has used the internet to meet someone, so the idea of falling for someone you've never really met is not as shocking as it first might have appeared. This gives an added weight to the element of Anne going to the matchmaker in the first place. Which I thought was mixed perfectly with the minor characters that Anne interviews who have had their own arranged marriages.
Too much in modern society is hinged on how we look, how we present ourselves and not enough on the real person.

Catherine McKenzie manages to take something as simple as eating lunch and deliver every emotion, every scent, every taste with such clear intent that it's no wonder her characters are so easy to identify with.

If you liked her first novel Spin then you're going to devour Arranged. (click here to browse inside the book)
Check out Catherine McKenzie on the Savvy Reader the official blog for Harper Collins Canada