By Ekta R. Garg
August 3, 2011
Rated: Borrow it
When a young woman experiences a horrific family tragedy—on her birthday, no less—she thinks nothing in life can knock her down so hard again. That is, until the man of her dreams dumps her weeks before their wedding. With no explanation whatsoever.
That’s half the premise behind the wonderful story of Sweet Misfortune by Kevin Alan Milne (published by Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group.) While Milne doesn’t necessarily always capture an authentic woman’s voice in his lead character of Sophie Jones—occasionally she comes across as a little too aggressive—Milne makes up for this minor weakness by putting together an intriguing story and a fantastic “never saw it coming” climax.
Sophie Jones owns her own chocolate store in Seattle, but her life doesn’t seem to have anything sweet about it. At the age of nine she loses her entire family in a terrible car accident and for the past 20 years has held herself accountable for it. Despite finally being raised by a wonderful foster mother, Sophie can’t shake the idea that she was not meant to have any happiness in life.
When she meets podiatrist Garrett Black, it seems as though she might finally change her mind about that perspective. Garrett is handsome, attentive, and willing to give Sophie all the time and space she needs to learn to trust him—a character trait that doesn’t come easily to Sophie. But she learns all the same, and the two decide to get married. Throwing herself into all the details of wedding planning, Sophie doesn’t think anything could mar her chance at lifelong happiness now. Until Garrett shows up one rainy night just weeks before the big day and calls off the wedding, without bothering to explain why.
Author Milne’s story doesn’t begin here, however. He offers all this information as a short diversion from the main event: Garrett’s re-entry almost a year later into Sophie’s life and his plea to let him explain why he left so abruptly. Sophie, understandably, is more than skeptical. She’s ready to throw Garrett out of her life as easily as he turned her out of his, but his persistence is undeniable. He really wants to make things right.
So Sophie gives Garrett a challenge: find a hundred people who can give her examples of true lasting happiness—“nothing fleeting” she clarifies—and she’ll go on one final date with him to let him tell his side of the story. Garrett promptly takes an ad out in the local paper soliciting responses that describe true happiness, and Sophie thinks that will be the last she hears of Garrett. Instead, she begins treading on a path that will lead her straight through her past and back to the present.
Milne’s device of using the newspaper ad may seem a little corny, but readers won’t mind the corniness of that or anything else. This is supposed to be a love story, after all, and we can forgive a little corniness in love stories. Sophie’s reluctance in hearing Garrett out is totally understandable, given her own personal history as well as the history she shares with this man she once loved, but we want her to give him a chance anyway.
The characterizations of Ellen and Evalynn are not as strong as Sophie’s. Her foster mother and foster sister, respectively, are present in the story but at certain points serve a means to an end: getting Sophie and Garrett back together. Still, author Milne handles their individual stories fairly well, although he skims over some of the details of the heavier moments of their own lives. But his treatment of their character graphs comes across well enough, and we enjoy seeing how they both work into the reality of Sophie’s life.
The element that makes this story pop, however, is most definitely the climax, and I’d highly recommend this fast read to anyone who wants to be shocked by the high point of the story. Be on the lookout, too, for Garrett’s marriage proposal to Sophie. At the risk of sounding ironic, his proposal is definitely sweet and original. Guys, take note: girls love this kind of stuff!
For those who love love stories and a book that can move at a good clip, be sure to read Sweet Misfortune.
What the ratings mean:
Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection. It’s definitely worth it!
Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.
Bypass it–Free time is precious. Don’t spend it on this book!