Once-famous author Andrew Connor is having a rough week. In a fit of frustration, his young girlfriend Daniela leaves him — and questions whether he’s even capable of writing anymore. Visiting a bookstore not long after, he finds his former bestseller at Barnes & Noble — for 90 percent off. Life at his small used bookstore in Hoboken, N.J., is full of colorful characters . . . but not big, colorful transactions. Things are quiet. Maybe a little depressing.
And then he meets Hannah.
Offbeat, adventurous and adorable, Hannah waltzes into Andrew’s life and kicks it up like a tornado — or maybe that’s just the sugar glider, the new pet he’s forced to “adopt” after accidentally mentioning he has one. After a fellow author talks him into attending a support group for writers, Textual Healing, Andrew brings Hannah along — and it’s not long before she’s shaking up everyone’s world. Especially his.
Eric Smith’s Textual Healing is a fun, sweet and unexpectedly poignant book about books — and the power, excitement and joy they bring us. Andrew “Ace” Connor is our narrator, a witty and self-deprecating guy you can’t help but like. Over the course of one week, Ace’s life changes completely as Daniela leaves and Hannah enters — but it didn’t feel like the cheesy rebound mess that might suggest.
In fact, on the surface, Smith’s novel sounds like a familiar-yet-quirky rendition of many popular romances: “You’ve Got Mail,” for one. But he turns the cliches around by acknowledging them, then incorporating the romantic jokes right into his novel. The characters know they’re being cheesy. And you know what? That’s why it’s okay.
Given the fact that I read books mostly by women, this was a welcome treat: a novel told from a male perspective and written by a man. But I’m not going to lie: though I really enjoyed Textual Healing, it was all I could do not to circle away with a red pen. Smith is a funny, interesting writer, but the grammatical and punctual errors throughout the book were tough for me to process. A writer and editor by trade, I found myself itching to open this baby up as a Word document and right all the wrongs.
But here’s the weird thing: I still liked this novel. Quite a bit, actually — because it was different. Everything I thought was going to happen . . . didn’t. And the cast of characters kept me jumping around, wondering how things were going to go down. Ace seems like the hipster writer friend you wish you had — someone out there “living the dream,” though the dream turns out to be different than he expected. Hannah was a little too ethereal for my tastes at times, but that’s okay — she’s not my dream girl, obviously. But she is Andrew’s.
The whole book is very imaginative and artfully drawn, brought to life through Smith’s descriptions. I read in another review that the reader felt it would make a great film — and I agree. The story lends itself to a hilarious romantic comedy, for sure, and I can see it translating well to the big screen. It’s just fun!
Anyone looking for a quick, offbeat and interesting read should look no further than Textual Healing. It was the bold cover that first attracted me to this book celebrating love and the written word . . . and it was the unconventional population of Smith’s novel that kept me reading.
4 out of 5!