Summary and book reviews of Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kayne Kaufman

Oxford Messed Up

by Andrea Kayne Kaufman

Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kayne Kaufman X
Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kayne Kaufman
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    Nov 2011, 336 pages

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Book Summary

Oxford Messed Up is a unique literary love story that transports readers on a meaningful and emotional journey where the academic world of Oxford, the music of Van Morrison, and an old claw-foot bathtub serve as a backdrop for learning, self-discovery, and transcendent love.

Rhodes Scholar Gloria Zimmerman is an academic superstar who has come to Oxford University to study feminist poetry. Yet the rigors of the academy pale in comparison to her untreated Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, fueled by her overachieving parents and manifested in a deathly aversion to germs and human contact. Her next-door neighbor (who is also, to her mortification, her loo-mate) is Henry Young, the appealing but underachieving musician son of an overbearing and disapproving Oxford don.

Still mourning the death of his supportive mother while enduring the mockery of his disapproving and merciless father, Henry is haunted by the unexpectedly serious ramifications of a reckless and tragic youth. Gloria and Henry's relationship evolves from a shared obsession with Van Morrison's music into a desire on the part of each to fill in the gaps in the life of the other. Yet the constraints of a debilitating illness and the looming revelation of a catastrophic secret conspire to throw their worlds into upheaval and threaten the possibilities of their unlikely yet redemptive love.

3.

Surprisingly, Henry's serendipitous plan had been working. And again he found himself engineering yet another opportunity to "accidentally run into" Gloria. It was the only way she would spend time with him. True, they lived in the same flat at St. Cross College. True, they were human and ostensibly both needed to eat on occasion, outside of the dreaded refectory. And true, they were both passionate about all things Van Morrison.

But patently and politely Gloria had refused Henry's many invitations to lunches, teas, dinners, pubs, clubs, concerts, and especially to listening to the extensive collection of Van Morrison vinyl he kept in his bedroom, only meters away from her bedroom. Underneath his sloppy good looks, dirty wrinkled rock T-shirts, and cocky dimpled smile, Henry was incredibly insecure. No matter how kind or gentle she was, Gloria's many rejections stung. And for some reason, like an idiot, he kept coming back for more.

His psychologist know-it-all ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why do you think the author titled the book Oxford Messed Up? What are the different ways the phrase "messed up" is used in the book? What are the implications of its various uses? Can being "messed up" be a good thing?


  2. Do you see this as a traditional love story? How is the book similar to and different from other novels with romantic plotlines you have read in the past, and how do these differences or similarities affect the general themes of romantic love in this work?


  3. How do Van Morrison and his music affect and inform Gloria and Henry and the other characters in the novel? Why does the author use Van Morrison music as the link between these two isolated souls?


  4. How do Gloria's dead women poets and ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

With 19 out of 20 reviewers rating it 4 or 5 stars, Andrea Kayne Kaufman's Oxford Messed Up is a top pick among BookBrowse readers! Here's what they have to say:

Oxford Messed Up is the story of two highly original characters destined to be together. I enjoyed the unique personality of Gloria, who attempts to rise above OCD; and Henry, trying to overcome the chains of remorse from a demonized past. They share a bathroom and a devotion to Van Morrison, and they believe in each other when paralyzed by their own self-doubt (Pepper E). I loved this book. Andrea Kaufman does a marvelous job creating characters with major personality flaws and turns them into people with heart and substance... I especially enjoyed the intellectual aspects of the book as Gloria writes and comments about her women poets and she collaborates with Henry regarding the poetry/music of Van Morrison. For me, the book worked on many levels, and I was truly pleased with the results (Beth C). Oxford Messed Up is a smart, compelling book (Amy M); it is believable, and keeps the reader's interest. I'm looking forward to more from this author (Karen B).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review (594 words).

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Media Reviews

Seattle PI
You will root for Henry and Gloria, suffer with them through their setbacks and celebrate their victories. Andrea Kayne Kaufman is to be commended for writing such a compelling and inspiring first novel.

Author Blurb Elyn Saks, J.D., Ph.D., 2009 winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant and author of The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
A beautifully written and compelling love story about two messed up people who help each other face and overcome their demons... Oxford Messed Up shows nothing less than the redemptive power of love.

Author Blurb Kathleen McCartney, Ph.D., Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education
In her first novel, Andrea Kayne Kaufman asks whether each of us, messed up in our own way, can choose to embrace happiness... I couldn't put this book down because Kaufman makes you care deeply about the individual journeys of her two protagonists.

Reader Reviews

Amy M. (Brooklyn, NY)

Oxford Messed Up is a smart, compelling book!
Gloria Zimmerman, who suffers from an extreme case of OCD, and Henry Young, a former drug addict, meet at Oxford University when they discover that their dorm rooms share a bathroom. These brilliant people are drawn to one another, recognizing in ...   Read More

Karen B. (Bethlehem, PA)

Oxford Messed Up
I work in academia and thought I would enjoy this book. I was not disappointed. I probably come into contact with someone like Gloria or Henry regularly. When I started reading the book, I wanted to shake both of them. I wanted Gloria to get ...   Read More

Kendra R. (New Orleans, LA)

Engaging love story
I really enjoyed Gloria and Henry's relationship and how they found hidden strength within themselves. Their shared connections left me wanting to read her dead feminist poets and listen to Van Morrison. I had little prior experience with mental ...   Read More

Beth C. (Sioux Falls, SD)

Oxford Messed Up -a Wonderful Story
I loved this book. Andrea Kaufman has done a marvelous job of creating characters with major personality flaws (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and substance abuse) and turned them into people with heart and substance. Gloria, the obsessive Rhodes ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Van Morrison

In Andrea Kayne Kaufman's Oxford Messed Up, Rhodes Scholar Gloria Zimmerman (who has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and Henry Young (an underachieving, drug-addicted musician) become unlikely friends when they're forced to share a bathroom in the Oxford University dorms. Over time, these "loo-mates" learn that, despite their differences, they have some things in common - not the least of which is a shared obsession with the music of Van Morrison.

Van Morrison George Ivan Morrison (born August 31, 1945) hails from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He began his musical career as a young man in the 50s, playing cover songs with Irish show bands. His talent and fluency with numerous instruments - he plays the guitar, drums, keyboards, harmonica, saxophone,...

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