Wednesday, November 5
In 2012, Bill Roorbach brought us Life Among Giants, which was much-acclaimed by critics and readers alike. The New York Times, in a rave review, called it “Alive, electric and surprisingly dangerous.” The Washington Post said it was “A bighearted, big-boned story . . .Roorbach is a humane and entertaining storyteller with a smooth, graceful style.” Roorbach’s new novel, The Remedy for Love, does not disappoint. You'll recognize his signature storytelling style in a very different kind of novel -- just as big hearted, but on a much more compact scale.
Eric is a middle-aged “small-town lawyer with no cases,” struggling with separation and lost love, when he lays eyes on a young woman in the supermarket line who's just such a disaster. Danielle is a hot mess brimming with suspicion and hostility, to say nothing of being hobbled by a bad sprain and no immediate prospects. When Eric helps her with her groceries -- and then, episode by episode, with bits of her torn-up life, young Danielle responds mostly with cagey bitterness, dismissing the train wreck that is her existence with tossed-off observations like “[p]eople are complicated.” Yes, they are, and Danielle—if that is her real name, for, as she tells him, it’s “Danielle, for now”—is more complicated than most. Set against the backdrop of a howling Maine blizzard (“Storm of the Century, that’s what I heard,” says Eric. “Of course that’s what they always say”), Roorbach’s story never takes an expected or easily anticipated turn. Eric makes a project of Danielle, a project that brings some glimmer of meaning into his life. Danielle, in turn, resents being made into said project. She’s an exceedingly strange bird, but strange is better than nothing -- maybe, for Danielle is harboring enough secrets to keep an NSA agent busy for years. “I’m sure I lied,” she tells Eric. And so she has, though she has her reasons, which we learn as Roorbach’s superbly grown-up love story unfolds.
Lyrical, reserved and sometimes unsettling -- and those are the happier moments. Another expertly delivered portrait of the world from Roorbach, that poet of hopeless tangles.
“The Remedy for Love is not the remedy for sleep deprivation. You’ll stay up all night . . . It is relentless and brilliant. Leave it to Roorbach to tease out the subtlest nuances in the progress of love while stoking a tale that is as gripping as any Everest expedition--and that is also tender and terrifying and funny and, in the end, so true it seems inevitable. I’m not sure there’s another American writing today who can lay down a love story, or any story, with the depth and appeal and freshness of Bill Roorbach.” —Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars
Bill Roorbach's Life Among Giants is in development at HBO for a multi-year drama series. His other books include the Flannery O'Connor Prize and O. Henry Prize winner Big Bend, the classic novel of competitive skiing and suppressed trauma, The Smallest Color, Temple Stream, winner of the Maine Prize for nonfiction, Into the Woods: Essays, and the romantic memoir Summers with Juliet. His famous craft book, Writing Life Stories: Making Memories into Memoir, Ideas into Essays, and Life into Literature, is used in writing programs around the world. His short work has been published in Harper's, Orion, The Atlantic Monthly, Playboy, The New York Times Magazine, Granta, New York, and elsewhere; you mayhave heard his story "Big Bend' read by James Cromwell at the Getty Center for NPR's "Selected Shorts". He lives in Maine with his family, and we're very pleased he's making a return visit to Booksmith.