BookBrowse Reviews The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorbach

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The Remedy for Love

by Bill Roorbach

The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorbach X
The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorbach
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp

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Thrown together by circumstances, two strangers must learn to forge a bond despite the weight of their inhibitions and past baggage.

The Remedy for Love is a sort of love story— but a prickly, uneven, almost worrisome one. It's also about healing and recovery after the loss of love. At its most basic, this is a survival tale.

The premise is intriguing: two strangers, with nothing in common, are trapped together in a rustic cabin on the outskirts of a small Maine town, as "the storm of the century" rages around them. The set-up is easily believable, as is what transpires over the next few days. There's a raw authenticity to the situation and the conversations, which makes it different from a typical romance novel. The two flawed, less-than-admirable characters get to know each other while trying to stay alive.

Eric is a small-town lawyer influenced by his years of helping people in bad situations due to their own poor choices. The same desire to serve which led to his career is the one that has left him jaded and cynical. He's divorced but still in love with his cold ex-wife, Allison, and counts on her occasional visits to provide him with brief interludes of romance and physical intimacy.

When he sees a thin, young, "unusually fragrant" woman limping and struggling to pay for her items at the grocery store; he is compelled to help her with money and a ride home. While hauling groceries along the path to the cabin where Danielle is staying, Eric's car is towed with his phone inside—he has no one to call regardless. Although Eric is fairly certain Danielle is simply squatting in someone's vacation home, he's forced to hunker down there too. Once the snow and the temperatures start falling, there is definitely no way he can leave.

Danielle is guarded and defensive. She first threatens him with a knife and then a promise that her husband Jimmy, an Army Ranger, will be arriving soon. However, Danielle is in pain from a badly sprained ankle and hungry. When Eric makes a delicious dinner for them both, complete with wine, she begins to relax, but not completely. The story is told from Eric's point of view. We are close inside his head as he spends the next few days with this peculiar and moody young woman. Ever polite and patient, regardless of her expletives and threats, it is clear that Eric is both a gentle man and a gentleman, but lacks in self-esteem. Sadly, he is used to being treated poorly.

Eric and Danielle are stuck together in close quarters with few other distractions. Their close proximity mixed in with boredom and stress, leads to intense conversations and a mutual sharing of secrets at an accelerated rate. As Eric narrates stories of his past relationships, Danielle provides a new and feminine-minded interpretation and meaning of his ex-wife's actions. And Eric provides Danielle with his perspective as a slightly older man looking back. Although they are complete strangers, they each help the other to develop new understandings and insights. It seems that they are both in need of a "remedy for love." Henry David Thoreau, in building on the thoughts of Ovid, is quoted as saying "the only remedy for love is to love more." Danielle explains it, "Like love was a disease that cured itself."

As time passes, hour by hour, it becomes increasingly clear that Danielle is not being honest about herself and her situation. It's understandable that she didn't trust this strange man, but her secrets go even deeper than the superficial defenses she has put on. But as Danielle and Eric literally cling to each other in defense against the bitter cold, they let down their emotional guard. They begin to accept and understand one another, and to speak of the future in a new and hopeful way. It seems possible that their separate histories could be left in the past.

Because of her quick-changing moods and strange reactions to Eric, I found Danielle hard to trust or like. Although hurt and unstable, she is also opinionated and bossy. Danielle sets the rules and Eric plays along. He lets her dictate what is allowed and forbidden, despite the fact that the guidelines keep changing along with her moods. It becomes clear that Eric is drawn to strong women who like to be in charge. So it feels believable that he would fall for this troubled young woman, even if it's not an ideal kind of attraction. As we get to know Danielle better, and her secrets unravel, we understand she's simply at a low point in her life. She has more to offer than we first perceive. I had a harder time understanding why Eric is so slow to recognize all the many ways she isn't being truthful. I would expect a lawyer to be more inherently skeptical and doubting; especially when Danielle continually contradicts herself.

Regardless, she and Eric make an unusual connection. With a constant flux in attitude, the two flirt, banter, argue, romance, and fight the hours away while the situation becomes increasingly dire. The stakes are high, the danger is real and closing in, and yet I never felt the intense drama of the situation. The writing is languorous and hypnotic, which works better for the intimate getting-to-know-each-other situation than the physical survival aspect of the story. There were a couple of times where I had to remind myself that this was serious business and that they might actually die.

Danielle and Eric's relationship changes when the stakes turn more physical, truly a matter of life or death. Their coming together, in all its fits and moments of uneven hostility mixed with gentleness and intimacy may, after all, be a remedy for love gone wrong.

Reviewed by Sarah Tomp

This review was originally published in November 2014, and has been updated for the June 2015 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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