How To Tell Toledo From The Night Sky by Lydia Netzer (2 out of 5)
This was a strange, strange book. I just finished two or three in a row that were fabulous. This, sadly, did not follow suit. I liked the cover, and it sounded like a quirky love story. When I got through reading it, I just didn’t know what to think. Usually that’s what I think of everyday life and not my books.. I stuck with it until the end, but immediately felt disappointment. This should have been funnier.
Irene is a scientist who solves a huge equation with black holes; one that could skyrocket her career. Moments after doing so, she receives a phone call that her mother has died. She tells her wayward, video game PC “boyfriend” (more like a friend WITHOUT benefits) Beilon that she’s leaving and going home to Toledo to bury her mom. The well renowned university in Toledo offers her a job based on her spectacular discovery, which she accepts. Only later does she find out that George Dermont, a popular campus fixture and “professor”, has been ousted from his lab and job by her meteoric rise to fame. Most people would feel some measure of compassion for George, who appears out of sorts and not sure what to think. Irene doesn’t. In fact, Irene is kind of a bitch. I’m not sure if this is how the author wants her to appear to be, or if she intended to take the character into another direction, but she appears to be all me, me, me. That’s a fine way to be, but George goes out of his way to make her feel at home. Of course, that’s because it’s LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT for George. Irene feels like she can’t breathe. We’ve all had those experiences- you meet someone and you just feel robbed of breath, like this person is going to change your life somehow. These two, though? You never quite get on board with the bustling romance. When whatever sparks between them, you wonder what’s going to happen, not only that, but both are “with” other people, Irene calling Beilon her boyfriend but treating him like cattle lose on the farm, George lusting after Kate, a mute girl who has dark hair and because of that, he’s convinced she’s “the one”. (This is a subplot that made no sense either- Irene’s mom and George’s mom strike some post-birth destiny chart that the two will end up together, and George spends his whole life following clues to this pre-determined destiny. Just. Doesn’t. Wash.). The two spend time getting to ‘know’ each other while Irene tries to come to terms with whether her mom’s death was suicide or the result of drunkenness. Then George falls gravely ill. What will happen?
At this point, I said “Do I really care?”. I just did not care. I did not connect at all with Irene, who struck me as a narcissistic, shallow “woe is me” type. Things suck, change them- it’s that simple. She stumbles through her life waiting for something to change. When it does, she still finds things to complain about. The backstory of Bernice, her late mother, is one of those things that made me want to smack her. If I have a hard time finding anything with the character that would save the story, well, it’s pretty much sunk for me. And that’s what happened here. It just made me want to smack people, and I kept hoping George would dump her ass. Seriously. Not a great story, unfortunately.