Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Review: Love and Other Puzzles

Title: Love and Other Puzzles

Author: Kimberley Allsopp

Publisher: 2nd February 2022 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Pages: 288 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: contemporary

My Rating: 5 cups


Following the clues doesn't always lead you where you might expect ...

A witty, warm-hearted and appealing novel about how stepping out of our comfort zones can sometimes be the best – and worst – thing that can ever happen to us. 

Rory's life is perfectly predictable, ordered and on track – just the way she likes it. She walks her 12,000 steps a day, writes her to-do list, and each night she prepares her breakfast chia pods and lays out her clothes for the next day. She's doing everything right. So why does everything feel so wrong?

Deep down, she knows her life and career – not to mention her relationship – are going nowhere, and so Rory, in a moment of desperation, takes an uncharacteristic step: letting the clues of The New York Times crossword puzzle dictate all her decisions for a week. Just for a week, she reasons. Just to shake things up a bit. What could possibly go wrong?

A delightfully witty, deliciously original and astringently refreshing romcom that reads like you're inhaling a zingy citrus cocktail made by Nora Ephron, at a party thrown by Dolly Alderton and Beth O'Leary.

My Thoughts

I loved this book. It truly spoke to me. Go read it. The end.

No, seriously, this is an amazing read and I have completely used up all my tabs and highlighters for the words of wisdom and clever quips that had me totally enthralled. 

I have a reasonable level of self-awareness. I know that I like to plan, that checking items off lists fills me with joy and a sense of achievement. I know that not everyone likes mapping out their hours, days, weeks, lives. Kitt was being kind using the word regimented instead of rigid. But having everything in order and diarised wasn’t working for me anymore.

This is full of Australianisms that made me either smirk or laugh out loud. Yes, this is a romcom that has all the necessary ingredients - a cast of cringeworthy characters, embarrassing moments and a journey that is well worth it. It’s clever, it's quick witted and it is highly entertaining. Finding yourself stuck in life, turning to the crossword to look for direction is sure to make for many an amusing moment. 

Why not let the creators of the black-and-white grid guide me for a week? Let its themes be my themes. A week wasn’t long enough to do any lasting damage and if it wasn’t working, I would just find something else or resign myself to a lifetime of chickpea salads on a Monday. A life that I didn’t mind. I just didn’t love. The crossword was my constant ... Where was the harm in instilling a modicum of power in the grid, in the hope that it might empower me?

Yet, when you pause long enough, you realise how Kimberley has really captured some awesome memories and reflective themes. Firstly I just loved how I was taken back to being a little girl and watching my Mum sitting there doing the daily crossword from the newspaper, or the reference to the Hagar comic, which was my Dad’s favourite and we often shared a giggle over. But then, when I stopped to look at my highlights, it became obvious how Kimberley was right on point about so many things. Here was a woman just searching for consistency after a childhood of inconsistencies due to her mothers absences.

The true constant in my life – that I couldn’t control – was violently missing her when she was gone and then internally sighing with relief and exhaustion the moment she was back. But always love. Every shade of it.

So, when you realise that life is not what you want or wish it to be … how does one change? Looking to your reliable, regular puzzle is not so zany but still too confining as Rory’s friend tries to point out:

‘Rory, I love this crossword experiment. I do. It’s great to see you doing something fun. But I wonder if you’re relying on it, possibly, a little too much at the moment? You’re allowed to have your own agency. I mean you’re the one choosing which meaning you divine from what clues. You can take it easier on yourself.’

Love and Other Puzzles is totally awesome. It’s full of wit and charm, it's refreshing and never dull with a perfect combination of humour and hindsight:

I had to let people be human. I couldn’t live up to this fictionalised version

Stop pushing yourself to have it all worked out now. It’s okay to spend some time getting things wrong before you get them right.

You’ve never been about the journey. It has always been the destination that’s mattered to you, but that’s just not how the universe works.

It sure works Kimberley, this was such an enlightening journey. Thank you. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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