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Literary Glance: The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

July 6, 2018

This is the cover of the book I’m reading.

Reading a novel from a writer’s perspective can cause you to notice things that make reading less enjoyable.  For example, The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand seemed like an entertaining book at first, but once I read the first couple chapters, I realized that not much had happened.   A couple characters had thought about a bunch of other characters, but those other characters who were thought about hadn’t actually shown up.

Readers of Hilderbrand’s previous books The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair might know these characters, but I haven’t read those books, so as I read the first couple chapters of The Perfect Couple, I kept asking myself “Who?”  “Who?”  “Who?”

“The Chief”

Anyway, in the first chapter (called “The Chief”) Chief Ed Kapenish gets a call early on a Saturday morning, and he knows it’s going to be bad news.  In the next few paragraphs, he thinks about Andrea, her two teenage twins Chloe and Finn, and Finn’s girlfriend Lola Budd, but none of these characters do anything in the chapter.

Chief then talks to Sergeant Dickson and mentions that Dickson one time had told him that Tess and Greg were dead, but I have no idea who Greg and Tess are (probably from another book).

Then Dickson talks about Merrit Monaco who’s been found dead (Merrit Monaco is a cool name for a dead character; I’d probably save the cool names for the characters who are alive for most of the story, but that’s just me).

Some guy named Roger Pelton called it in.  Somebody named the Greek is on the way to the crime scene.  Two characters named Cash and Elsonhurst are on “vacay” (Dickson’s word, but I don’t think men say the word “vacay.”).

Then Chief thinks about somebody named Jordan Randolph from the Nantucket Standard.  Then it turns out the dead body with the cool name was the maid of honor for an upcoming wedding in town, but thankfully, the wedding names weren’t given.  That was the first chapter.

“Greer”

Next is a chapter introducing Greer, and this takes place on the previous day.  Greer Garrison Winsbury (that name sounds like somebody trying too hard) is thinking about weddings and thinks about her husband Tag.

Then she thinks about Benji’s wedding (who’s Benji?) and then Thomas and Abigail Freeman (Who are they?).

Then she mentions a singer named George Strait, and I think that’s a real person, but then she explains who George Strait is, and, yeah, I was right, I already knew who he was.  I didn’t know who Benji or Thomas or Abigail were.  I thought that was weird, the author explained who the real person was but not the fictional people who had never been introduced in this novel yet.

Then she thinks about picking up Celeste’s parents, Bruce and Karen Otis.

Then she listens to “Hooked on a Feeling” by BJ Thomas.  I had to look that up because I only knew “Hooked on a Feeling” by Boston.  (What?  “Hooked on a Feeling” by BJ Thomas came out in 1968!!??  Thank you, internet!)

Then she worries about Tag’s faithfulness and a possible affair he’s having with Featherleigh Dale.

Then there’s Jessica Hicks the jeweler.  Then she mentions Celeste’s mother Karen who has stage 4 breast cancer (I’m sorry).

Then she thinks about the protagonist of her books (she’s a novelist!) Miss Dolly Hardaway.  Then traffic starts moving and there’s no time to think.

*****

That’s two chapters, and all we have is a dead body and lots and lots of thinking.   I’m sure these characters who were thought about will show up later.  Even though there’s a lot of thinking, it’s well-written thinking.  I almost didn’t notice that nothing happened.   Then I realized that I got more accomplished reading these chapters (I fixed the sink and clipped hedges) than the characters in the book.  I’m not a bestselling author, but I’d probably wait until the middle of the book to have chapters where nothing happens.  Maybe the rest of The Perfect Couple is action-packed!

*****

What do you think?  How much background information should be dumped in the first few chapters?  Is Merrit Monaco too cool of a name to waste on a dead character?  Have you ever heard a man say “vacay”?  How many characters should a writer mention before bringing them into the story?

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