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Love Is a Canoe: A Novel Hardcover – January 8, 2013

3.6 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Schrank has done something here that may sound impossible: He's written a funny novel about publishing that is not caustic but optimistic, not biting but bighearted--a story about the delusions with which self-aware, smart people are all too willing to live in order to avoid the painful (yet entertaining) upheaval that comes with truth.” ―Dean Bakopoulos, The New York Times Book Review

“What results when Emily and her self-satisfied husband turn up at Herman's lakeside cabin is expertly wrought farce--Schrank skewers the publishing industry and modern relationship talk, while somehow still making us care about the fate of this wounded young marriage. His portrayal of present-day Brooklyn, with its artisanal businesses and self-conscious foodways, may someday feel as nostalgic as Herman's sepia-tinged memories of paddling a canoe with the ever-wise Pop.” ―Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe

“A crackling sendup of book-marketing schemes and an inquiry into twenty-first-century togetherness. ” ―Vogue

“Peter Herman's marriage manual is a classic, but what does he really know about love? Whip-smart and highly entertaining. ” ―People

“The strength of the novel lies in its well-rounded, passionate characters. Emily the controlling introvert makes a strong contrast to the extroverted, passionate Eli . . . [readers] will find Schrank's novel a pleasure to read and his characters easy to appreciate. ” ―The Dallas Morning News

“With brilliant subtlety, Ben Schrank reveals the ways in which belief in popular, sentimental bromides about marriage can impede real connection and true, long-lasting love. Love Is a Canoe is a sharply funny, beautifully original novel filled with interesting, tough-minded characters, great dialogue, and a riveting, excellent plot. The ending is perfect.” ―Kate Christensen, author of The Astral and The Great Man

“I don't think of myself as loving particular kinds of fiction, but this book made me realize I do: fiction, for instance, like this--smart, darkly funny (but not jokey) books that are knowing and wise but a little skeptical of knowingness and the possibility of wisdom. Love Is a Canoe would join Martin Amis's The Information and Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys on my shelf devoted to terrific satirical novels about writers and publishing, if I had such a shelf.” ―Kurt Andersen, author of True Believers and Heyday

Love Is a Canoe captures the most essential difficulties of marriage and commitment--our fears of love and loss. A brilliant book of do-overs and second chances, Schrank's novel is mordantly funny and an all-too-real meditation on modern life.” ―A. M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven and This Book Will Save Your Life

Love Is a Canoe takes a good look at the world of self-help and both mocks and embraces our dearest and corniest desires. Ben Schrank's terrific new novel is a real self-help book, and you should help yourself to it.” ―Daniel Handler, author of Why We Broke Up

“Our bookshelves all have an empty space waiting for the book we long for but cannot quite imagine because it can't be described as ‘the next A' or ‘Author X by way of Author Y.' Love Is a Canoe fills that nameless void. Funny, tender, wholly original--it's as if all the good fairies came to its christening (story, dialogue, character, heart). I loved it.” ―Laura Lippman, author of And When She Was Good and The Most Dangerous Thing

“It's not surprising that Ben Schrank would produce a witty, insightful novel about the world of publishing. The real revelation here is how wise Schrank is while navigating the far more complicated terrain of love and human relationships. Love Is a Canoe is a wonderful and deceptively breezy novel--heartfelt and wise; light as feathers, strong as iron.” ―Adam Langer, author of Crossing California and The Thieves of Manhattan

“Three stories of personal and literary authenticity weave through this novel of love and books that gets sharper and smarter as it progresses . . . The honesty doled out as events unspool is bracing and frank, and gives these characters added depth and wisdom.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Schrank has firm command of the story, never letting the plot turns descend into farce, and the closing pages are a convincing portrait of how relationships shift in ways no self-help book can anticipate. A wise imagining of modern-day love, unromantic but never cynical.” ―Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Ben Schrank is president and publisher of Razorbill, a Penguin imprint that is home to many award-winning and New York Times–bestselling books for children and young adults. Ben is also the author of the novels Consent and Miracle Man. He wrote "Ben's Life," a monthly column for Seventeen magazine, in the 1990s. He grew up in Brooklyn, where he lives with his wife and son.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books; First Edition edition (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374192499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374192495
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,640,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Larry Hoffer on January 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If the course of love ran smoothly, we'd have far fewer books, movies, songs, magazines, and plays, don't you think? Ben Schrank's new novel, Love is a Canoe, looks at the chaos of love and how sometimes trying to help it isn't the best thing.

Peter Herman watched his parents' marriage disintegrate and saw how that affected his mother. As a 12-year-old, he spent a summer with his grandparents, a couple truly in love, and he shared the lessons he learned in a self-help book of sorts, Marriage is a Canoe. The book became legendary, with many people commenting how it helped them through the years, although it also became the target of many cynics.

To celebrate the book's 50th anniversary, Stella Petrovic, an ambitious young editor at Peter's publisher, decides to reignite excitement by holding a contest asking married couples in trouble to share their stories. One lucky couple will spend the weekend with Peter in the picturesque town he's lived in for years, with the hopes that he can help mend their marriage. But what Stella doesn't realize is that Peter's intentions aren't quite as clear as he pretends they are, and she also doesn't recognize the reasons for all of the pressure her boss, Helena, is putting on her to ensure the contest succeeds.

Emily Babson and Eli Correlli, the winners of the contest, are struggling with feelings of resentment, betrayal, inferiority, hurt, and, above all, the desire to keep their marriage going. Emily grew up with Marriage is a Canoe as a touchstone in her life, one of the things that helped get her through her own parents' divorce. So she sees this opportunity to meet with Peter as the magic elixir that will put her life back on the right path.

The trouble is, Peter didn't always follow the lessons of his own book.
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Format: Hardcover
This wonderful novel is about a self-help book, an author. a couple in need of help in their marriage and the publishers of the book.

Several decades ago Peter Herman wrote a book about marriage and called it 'Love is a Canoe'. It is a folksy book about lessons he learned while spending summers with his grandparents while he was growing up. His parents were in a horrible relationship and his summers were the only happy time in his life, especially watching his grandparents interact. The book has been in print for fifty years and many people have used it to save their marriages. It contains advice like 'Good love is a quilt - light as feathers and strong as iron.' 'A good marriage is a canoe - it needs care and isn't meant to hold too much - no more than two adults and a few kids'. Recently, Peter has been in a funk. The love of his life, LIsa, has died and he is in a new relationship that he can not fully commit to. His publishing company wants to improve sales of his book and so they hold a contest, asking people to write their stories, asking for help with their marriages, with the prize being a weekend with Peter who will help them work on their relationship.

Emily Babson and her husband, Eli Correlli are experiencing marital problems. Eli has just had an affair and Emily enters the contest. She has read and re-read Peter's book several times since she was a twelve year-old girl growing up in a household with fighting parents that ended in their getting a divorce. She loves Eli and believes that their marriage can be saved. She wins the contest and the action starts from there. Together, she and Eli go to spend the time with Peter and Emily hopes, more than anything, that she can forgive Eli and he can remain faithful.
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Format: Hardcover
I finished "Love is a Canoe" in one, pre-Valentine week-end.
I admire the meaningfully complex structure of the book-within-the-book, the fugue-like juxtaposition of the old stories and the new ones, the self-conscious vacillation between cliché and wisdom, the layers and echoes of failed romances and complicated relationships. This is great writing that makes for a great read across the generations! I was particularly sensitive to Peter's situation and the various iterations of his mature love-life. And I found the revelation at the end truly poignant, realizing that Peter/Helena gave the needy little boy the special love he longed for after the fact, as it were. And this bittersweet, biting novel could certainly be read as the "Devil Wears Prada" of the publishing world.
I enjoyed it immensely.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read a few books lately whose topic is that marriage is not what it seems. Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl shows us the remnants of a bad marriage through the unreliable eyes of both spouses. Chris Pavone's The Expats uses the spy game as a metaphor for how little we really know how our own spouse.

Ben Schrank's novel Love Is a Canoe has a different take. Peter Herman wrote a hugely successful self-help book titled Love Is a Canoe, filled with the wisdom his loving grandparents shared with him as a teen. They taught him the importance of being respectful, treating the person you love with kindness, and many other bromides.

Peter fell in love with a young girl one summer when he was with his grandparents, and following his grandparents' advice, he pursued this girl and eventually married her. They bought an inn and restaurant in upstate New York and lived a happy life.

His wife fell ill and died, and now Peter is dating someone. He hasn't written anything else, and his publishing company has reissued his book many times, still selling a few copies here and there.

Stella is a young editor at the publishing house trying to move up the ladder. She comes up with an idea for a contest where couples would write in asking for marital advice. The winner would spend the day with Peter, stay at his inn and get some helpful guidance from him.

There were a few problems: Peter has had little contact with his publisher over the years, and they had to find just the right couple. Only one couple fits the bill- Emily and Eli. They have been happily married, until Eli cheated on Emily with a work colleague. Will Peter be able to help them? Stella's career depends on it.

There is a lot of inside stuff about working at a publishing house.
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