Crystal loses her copywriting job as her fiance decides to take a break from their relationship to hike the Pacific Crest Trail for five months. She moves in with her needy mother, Margot. She hopes she can save on rent and work on her novel, a retelling of the Rapunzel fable. Her sister convinces her to enroll in a paid test for “robot companions.” Crystal signs her mother up without telling her, and Adam shows up to woo Margot.
Epistolary novels are a wonderful form, and a modern one must use, as this one does, a combination of communication types: emails, texts, journal entries, novel excerpts, and press releases. The informality of the communication allows for a variety of different voices and emotions and layers of meaning. It allows characters to reveal different facets to different people in their communiqués. It’s often tricky in fiction for the author and the protagonist to share a name, using the “true story” claim layered over the fiction. The set-up for the premise takes a little too long with a few too many tangents, and there are more tangents after the climactic sequence that slow down the narrative flow.
However, the heart of this book is joyful and funny. The characters, in spite of their flaws, love each other and try to do the right thing, although sometimes they chose the most difficult route possible. Crystal doesn’t just learn about herself. She learns to see her mother in a new light, as a separate person, not just a safety net. Margot’s growth from needing to talk to her daughters constantly to quitting an unsatisfying job to starting her own business, figuring out perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and learning how to stand up for what she wants is beautifully rendered. A twist in Adam’s own self-realization is a lovely surprise. And if dinosaur erotica doesn’t yet exist as a subgenre, it needs to launch.
Funny, a little wacky, but with a lot of heart, Crystal Hemmingway’s MOM’S PERFECT BOYFRIEND is an energetic epistolary romantic comedy.
~Eva Schegulla for IndieReader