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By Bill VanPatten

IR Rating:
Bill VanPatten's SOMETIMES YOU JUST KNOW is a diverting, uplifting, and satisfying tale of romance and personal redemption.
IR Approved

A thirty-year-old designer who is unlucky in love learns to let go of the past and embrace life.

Arnie Violet (as in, perhaps, “shrinking violet”) is a thirty-year-old designer for an advertising agency who is terminally single: his longest relationship lasted fifty-three days. When Harold, Arnie’s boss, invites him over for dinner one Friday, he meets Harold’s nephew, Peter, who is eighteen, loves classical music, is described as “handsome” about a dozen times, and flirts with Arnie five seconds after meeting him. Arnie, wary of the age difference–plus battling a few demons from his past–is hesitant, but Peter persists. Will the latter get what he wants? Or will Arnie’s neuroses win out?

In this newest novel by the prolific and award-winning Bill VanPatten, the plot is fizzy and satisfying, and the characters familiar. There is Peter, the Bach-playing, GQ-dressing future med school student. Harold, the too-chummy boss. Harold’s wife, who “runs the household” while her husband is “the breadwinner.” Rachel, the senior designer who has it in for Arnie for no discernible reason. And Arnie himself. Under-confident. Worrywort. Picture an older Charlie Brown who has good taste, speaks Spanish, and happens to be gay (VanPatten neither avoids queerness nor makes it central to the plot, which is what the literary world needs more of). The difference is, everything goes right for Arnie. Good for him that Harold has as many boundaries as The Office’s Michael Scott, which is to say, none at all. In addition to dinner, Harold invites Arnie hiking, assures him Rachel is “not as good as you,” and gives him the agency’s biggest project because he likes him. Good for Arnie also that Peter has the subtlety of David Addison from Moonlighting: “There, under the damask-clothed table, under the better-than-everyday-dinnerware, under the perfectly cooked prime rib and roasted vegetables, Peter’s hand was gently caressing Arnie’s mid-thigh. Then it began finger walking its way toward his pocket.” Dessert hadn’t even been served!

VanPatten is careless with a few details. Arnie admires some porcelain from “Williams and Sonoma,” when the retailer’s name is “Williams Sonoma.” One moment, he’s standing on a Navajo rug, the next, its Persian. But in the end they don’t matter much in the overall scheme of things.

Bill VanPatten’s SOMETIMES YOU JUST KNOW is a diverting, uplifting, and satisfying tale of romance and personal redemption.

~Anthony Aycock for IndieReader

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