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Which Brings Me to You: A Novel in Confessions Hardcover – April, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Steve Almond has published over one hundred stories and poems—in publications ranging from Playboy to Tin House to Zoetrope—and a two previous collections of stories, My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow. He is the author of the bestselling novel Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America.

Julianna Baggott is the author of the bestseller Girl Talk, as well as The Miss America Family, The Madam, and a book of poems. She writes popular children’s books under the pseudonym N. E. Bode. She teaches at Florida State University.

From Booklist

Coauthored by pop-culture darlings Baggott and Almond, this is a surprisingly poignant and meaningful read. The epistolary novel is nothing new, but here the form seems fresh and intriguing. The two letter writers, Jane and John, meet at a wedding and decide to become each other's confidantes, confessing all the foibles and deep pains of their meaningful romantic relationships to the present. The letters that result are intense and emotional and reveal a dark and sad side to both love and sexuality for those finding themselves single in their thirties today. From relationships that seem to be little more than sexual fireworks to those that are so tender they border on schmaltzy, John and Jane tell each other all the things that they've found in their love lives. In the end, and not surprisingly, this unburdening becomes the crux of their own relationship--a no-baloney, no-holds-barred, show-me-your-soul roll in the emotional hay. No gimmick here, just a great story. Debi Lewis
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; 1st edition (April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156512443X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124431
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,530,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Linda Bulger VINE VOICE on June 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book caught my eye in an overseas airport. Looking, as always, for something absorbing to make a long, long trip more bearable, I thought "Which Brings Me To You" might turn off the tape recorder in my own head and free me from my own introspection. It certainly did that! Sydney to LAX to Detroit to Portland, I was an eager audience for Jane and John's "Dance of the Seven Veils."

These two thirty-somethings meet at a wedding and nearly have sex in the coat closet, then don't and decide to correspond instead. The premise may be unrealistic and the language overheated, but I never mind that in a book -- if you do, then choose something else to read. But if you ever went through that fervent dorm-room phase of trying to summarize yourself to someone who knows nothing of your history, you probably will wish you could have done it with as much wit, self-deprecation and inventiveness of language as Julianna Baggott and Steve Almond brought to this little piece. So seductive, the rhetorical substitution of part for whole, the desire to explain ourselves by explaining what we do and how we feel about it. Have you ever believed that if you could just find the right words, you could give your listener a perfect knowledge of yourself? (Can't happen!) And for that matter, have you ever thought that would be a good thing?

Jane and John are looking for acceptance, or possibly absolution, and they seem to find it in each other. Meanwhile the reader is entertained by passages of unexpected language. Jane writes, "I waited tables at Charles Village Pub and was under the mistaken impression that my life was a work of art... I don't think I have to state this but we weren't really artistes. We were PEZ dispensers with pink candy pop ideology.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this cover to cover in 4 days. This alone is somewhat remarkable, as I usually forget that I am in the middle of a book and a few days later realize, "oh, was I reading something?" This one I could barely put down. Although it's a "novel" of sorts, it's really comprised of a series of short stories that build on each other, which makes for easy reading.

What is particularly striking is that the reader is immediately drawn to the characters, and as the story develops, they become more and more like people I know, er, uh, myself. They become likeable in spite of (or perhaps because of) their shortcomings. They're like the rest of us - some good, some bad, and very complicated.

Jane especially unfolds into different versions of herself, just like she says. It's held together by the fact that she acknowledges that, and sees that in herself.

John (Ted??) is at first little flatter, and his motivations aren't always clearly understood. Most of this comes into focus through the course of the stories, as he sorts it out with his therapist and Jane.

When it looks like it's heading for a romp in a coat closet, the expectation is for a light-hearted story. Instead, Baggot and Almond let the complexity and messiness of life take over. What develops is an intense, big story, made up of these equally powerful little stories that go back and forth in letters. The last third of the book was extremely moving, and pretty much had me in tears most of the time.

The one unbelievable part is that these two random strangers turn out to be such great story tellers, and they found each other. But then, I guess that's the unbelievable thing about any relationship.

What I mean by all this is "wow."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The work provides another blow to the straightjacket, mind numbing culture of romance in the good old U.S. of A. The narrative explores two people's past lovers, and they do come close to hooking-up when they first meet at a wedding, but they do not grab the "let's get to know each other" handle as a way to do it the "right way," though the male is the one who pops the 'chute before they sate their lusts. No, what happens is true to life: they realize as they narrate their loves that human beings are incredibly complex and live incredibly complex lives, especially ones who seek an active life, thus there really isn't "the one." They do contemplate the question of whether it's best to be loved or understood, but that's a product of the prevailing culture of romance. What they and the readers come to understand is that our complexity makes sustaining the romantic ideal a fair bet at best. In fact, the two epistolary lovers know at the end that they are both committed to the quest for love, whatever that entails. As Baggott quotes from The Confessions of Saint Augustine, "And what was it that delighted me? Only this--to love and be loved," the two come to realize that the quest for love is part of the human condition, whether you stay with a lover for one month, one year, ten years, forty years is irrelevant. The challenge is whether you are willing to put your heart on the chopping block, and they wonder along with us if many of the ones who continue on are really the ones who have decided to walk off the field, the battle over. The letters are achingly funny and honest, a respite from the dominant simple-minded culture of these early years of the twenty-first century.
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