Friday, June 20, 2008

Review: The Marriage of True Minds

The Marriage of True Minds by Stephen Evans
3.5 stars

Reasons for reading: caught my eye on Shelf Awareness; New-to-Me Authors list for Triple 8 Challenge

Summary: "Together as husband and wife, Nick Ward and Lena Grant ran a successful boutique law firm in Minneapolis, vanquishing all their legal foes side by side. When Nick's charming erratic behavior finally became too much for Lena, the marriage and the partnership ended. But-like C.K. Dexter Haven and Tracy Lord-Lena and Nick just can't quite separate. Lena works out fiercely, keeps her dates with the boring and conventional Preston Winter, and daily battles on against corporate greed. But Nick's not doing so well. Still brilliant and devilishly clever, he is now also almost crazy. He is prone to fantasy and the big gesture, and he engages frantically in guerrilla activism for the sake of animals wild and domestic. Nick doesn't make plans; he has visions. And eventually his antics put him back into Lena's hands. While she tries to navigate the legal waters into which he's thrown them, Nick veers out of her wake and into the midst of a strange set of companions, including Oscar, his psychiatric attendant and Action Comics collector; Ralph and Alice Wilson, the rebellious managers of the city animal shelter; and an aging Russian hound named Wolfram. "

First line: "MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE - June 11: Local barrister Nicholas Ward was arrested yesterday for releasing more than 100 live lobsters into the indoor pool at the mayor's mansion in Minneapolis."

My thoughts: This book presented me with two elements I couldn't resist - a Minneapolis setting and comparisons to Katharine Hepburn/Cary Grant movies. And it delivered on both! I could totally see Hepburn and Grant as Lena and Nick and there was a ton of Minneapolis-ness for me to enjoy. In fact, this little book would make an excellent modern-day screwball romantic comedy. Evans is a playwright and it comes through - there's a lot of great dialogue and it would be greatly enhanced by being on stage or on film.

My favourite part was Sancho, the sheepdog puppet. Nick communicates through him a great deal and he's always popping up in strange places - holding Lena's alarm clock or dressed in a shower cap in her bedroom, for example. Lena and Nick both treat him as though he's real (Nick says Sancho prefers to be called an Unreal American rather than a puppet) and Lena remarks several times to Sancho, after his master has done yet another exasperating thing, "It's not you." My husband and I have a stuffed monkey that we communicate through a lot - so I could relate! :)

The secondary characters, including the live and Unreal dogs, are really great, too. Oscar the comic collecting psych hospital employee and the couple who run the animal shelter fall under Nick's spell and Sharon the former standup comedian-turned-secretary is a fierce protector of Lena. Only Preston, Lena's post-divorce boyfriend, hates Nick and is out to get him committed. But, like it or not, Lena and Nick have a marriage of true minds, whether they're married or not.

I have a feeling there was probably a deeper message about sanity, animal rights, and what constitutes love that I didn't quite get, but I think I got most of it. It's a charming little read with some really funny parts.

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