I’ve just finished my next literary venture, a novel called The Rules of Love and Grammar by Mary Simses. My best friend, who works for a publishing company, gifted the book to me and I was intrigued by the title more than anything. The synopsis seemed enjoyable enough and I felt the story of a young woman returning to her picturesque hometown would suit the blooming springtime around me.
For all these reasons, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t love this novel. I’ve never read any of Simses’ work before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I have to say that I was a bit disappointed by the slow pacing of the story and the lack of development throughout. The story was lovely and nice, but it was in no way earth shattering or exciting; I didn’t mind reading it, it was pleasant, but I didn’t adore it either.
I felt that the story was a bit lazily told, to be honest. Although Grace could’ve been a fascinating narrator and protagonist, I felt that she relied too heavily on telling the reader things, rather than showing them. She constantly catalogued and listed her emotions, instead of portraying them more subtly and thus encouraging the reader to become entangled with her personality, and she seemed a little poorly developed. There were scenes when she was as blundering and ridiculous as a Kinsella heroine, but then moments later she was composed and dignified. It was very hard for me to reconcile these conflicting aspects of her character and to become attached to her when I couldn’t get a grasp on who she really was.
I also felt that the plot was a bit confused: the novel couldn’t decide if it was a romance or a family drama. While a story can definitely be both things, Simses didn’t develop either plotline thoroughly enough and nothing was resolved or even remotely figured out at the end. Yes, Grace ends up in love, but she doesn’t even start to consider this emotion or her feelings until around 10 pages before the conclusion. Yes, Grace struggles with her sister’s death, but even her conversation with her parents about the circumstances surrounding Renny’s death provides no closure. The family discusses how they feel, but nothing monumental is discovered that would turn Grace’s emotions around…and the one truth bomb that Simses attempts to drop (about Renny’s troubled past) is weak, in my opinion. It doesn’t seem like Grace ever works through her guilt, and yet somehow, by the end of the novel she has moved past it. I would’ve liked to see more reflection on Grace’s part…but reflection that is subtle and intricate and psychological, not heavy-handed and delivered in words directly to the reader.
I guess I was disappointed because I expected to go on an emotional journey with Grace that I never got to go on. Even Grace’s “obsession” with correcting people’s grammar is only mentioned a few times; for such an allegedly defining aspect of her personality, the reader only encounters it a handful of times. I wanted to care about Grace and go places with her, but she wasn’t developed in a way that allowed me to do that.
I’m frustrated because I really wanted to love this novel. I didn’t hate it by any means; it was a nice, light summer read. But I expected more of it, and I wish I had received something closer to what I wanted.
❥❥ (out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart