Welcome back to another edition of #BuyThisBook, where I write mediocre book reviews about the books my friends have written that I also happen to really like! This week, we’re going to talk about Realizing River City, a memoir written by my work wife, my BFF, Melissa Grunow.
Melissa, on top of being my ride-or-die who I can communicate with in social settings using only looks and one-word conjunctions, is a fantastic writer who has been publishing her works in real literary journals for years. This year, she published her first book, Realizing River City, and real talk: it’s so good. It’s based on Melissa’s experiences with love through her twenties and early thirties, and how each of those experiences shaped and changed her, for better and for worse (but mostly better). It’s not flowery, it’s not peppy, and it’s not cute. It reads like your best friend sitting with you at your kitchen table or your couch, having a real heart-to-heart with you about each experience. It’s raw and honest, which immediately sucks you in and makes you want to know where Melissa will end up at the end of the book.
Don’t let me fool you — just because the tone of the book is so real doesn’t mean the language isn’t striking. Here’s a passage from my favorite chapter:
Joe came home and noticed the emptiness left behind where a man once was. He sat at the dining table, playing music on his computer with the volume turned low. It was our sign, an invitation to talk. Waiting was his way of saying, “I’m here to listen if you need me.” Joe’s presence was a comfort but also a nagging reminder of what it meant to be accountable to someone else, how easy it was to lose myself if people weren’t ever-present. He was to me what I needed from a man who wanted nothing from me.
I sat across from him, and put my head down, the tablecloth scratchy beneath my cheek.
“It’s over.” I would say it again. The scene would replay with other men who would leave, or I would leave them, or we would abandon each other. Some I would let go of quickly, easily, one would disappear completely, never to be heard from again, and another would leave me in a spinning state of drunken depression that lasted for days. But no matter how many times, no matter how many men, Joe would always appear at the table, the music down low, and wait until I was ready to talk.
I love that Melissa’s book isn’t just about romantic relationships, although there’s plenty of that. She also reflects on the relationships that live in the gray areas, the ones that don’t have labels. Those relationships have just as much of an impact as the ones that have clear definitions. I also love that this book just sucked me back into re-reading it for about a half hour while I was looking for my favorite passage because it’s so damn good.
So, if you enjoy good storytelling, or you also spent your twenties figuring out who you are and why you dated who you did, this is a book you’ll enjoy. You can pick up your copy from Amazon today, or you can win a free copy from me! And to boot — it’s an autographed copy, because I happen to have an in with the author. Which, by extension, makes ME a pretty big deal.
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