Confession: I was skeptical of What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin. Not because it sounded bad but because I have a track record of not loving novels with main characters who are older. I'm in my mid-twenties (I'm 26 turning 27, can I still say mid-twenties?) so I just relate better to characters who are that age. But, I'm a huge fan of Nora Ephron's movies (You've Got Mail is an all time favourite) so I decided to give this book a shot. And guess what? It earned my first five star rating (of a non-reread) of 2014!
Here's the synopsis:
Molly Hallberg is a thirty-nine-year-old divorced writer living in New York City who wants her own column, a Wikipedia entry, and to never end up in her family's Long Island upholstery business. For the past four years Molly's been on staff for an online magazine, covering all the wacky assignments. She's snuck vibrators through security scanners, speed-dated undercover, danced with the Rockettes, and posed nude for a Soho art studio.
Fearless in everything except love, Molly is now dating a forty-four-year old chiropractor. He's comfortable, but safe. When Molly is assigned to write a piece about New York City romance - in the style of Nora Ephron - she flunks out big-time. She can't recognize romance. And she can't recognize the one man who can go one-on-one with her, the one man who gets her. But with wit, charm, whip-smart humor, and Nora Ephron's romantic comedies, Molly learns to open her heart and suppress her cynicism in this bright, achingly funny novel.
The thing I loved most about this book is that it felt like a Nora Ephron movie. The main character was witty but far from perfect. She's dating a guy who was nice and comfortable (think You've Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle). The story takes place in Manhattan - there's even a scene at Cafe Lalo where, in You've Got Mail, Kathleen is to meet her mystery man but Joe "just happens" to be there instead. There are grand gestures. And it's funny and real.
I think the way the novel was written played a big role in my enjoyment as well. I liked that it felt like I was one of Molly's friends and she was telling me the story of her life at the moment. It was a very conversational writing style and I enjoyed that. I did have the thought that not everyone would enjoy the way the novel was written but it thrilled me.
For a book about a woman who needs to rediscover romance, if she ever discovered it in the first place, this novel doesn't push the romance in your face. I think part of that is because you sort of know what's going to happen at the end of the book, you know who Molly will end up with. But as Molly says about Nora Ephron's movies,
"[I]t's not about who she's going to end up with. We still want to keep watching. We're mesmerized by the journey." (page 108)
And I was mesmerized. I couldn't wait to see how Molly and her eventual love interest would get together and when she would realize that he's totally meant for her.
I felt good when I was reading What Nora Knew and I was happy with the way author Linda Yellin wrapped things up in the end. For those reasons, and many others, this novel was a total winner for me. If you're intrigued by the idea behind this novel, pick it up. I don't think you'll regret it!
*A e-galley of this novel was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*