Rachel Samstat is 38 years old and seven months pregnant with her second child. She narrates Heartburn, beginning with the moment that she learns of her husband’s infidelity to the moment six weeks later when she decides whether she’ll continue with the marriage or flush it down the crapper.
Because she describes a series of episodes without any real direction, there’s not really a plot. While I don’t wanna be a stickler, it’s kind of important for books to have plots. To have a driving force. It’s what sucks us in. It’s a huge part of what makes a story good. Or more to the point, it’s what makes a story a story. So while I’m trying not to be a total dick, I’m gonna have to dock Ephron a smidge for this deficiency.
But what Ephron does provide us with in spades is themes. She meditates on dating, cheating, marriage, infidelity, love, and affairs, as well as the cheating scum who engage in those affairs. I’m a huge fan of these themes.
Ephron also creates full-figured characters that are interesting, frustrating, and amusing. She further succeeds at weaving in her acerbic wit and caustic sense of humor with well-turned phrases that are pithy, shrewd, and entertaining.
I particularly liked her thoughts on how discovering that you’ve been cheated on completely changes your past. When you look back at events in your life post-affair, you wonder what was really going on and you realize that everything now looks different. That you’ve been robbed of something.
Another interesting component is that Rachel, who writes cookbooks with recipes centered around personal stories, often shares detailed recipes with us. Because my culinary expertise is limited to pouring milk over Fruity Pebbles, I would usually gloss over something like this, but I got the feeling that Ephron was trying to tell us something. While I’m pretty sure that I failed to pick up on whatever it was that she was trying to convey, I still found it interesting to contemplate the role that food plays in our lives; how central it is to our experiences with friends, family, and travel, and how therapeutic food and cooking in and of itself can be. Food and recipes also played pivotal roles in the story’s climax and resolution. What shocked me was that all this speculative interpretation wasn’t a wholly disagreeable experience. If I were of the pretentious douchebag type, I would even go so far as to say that it enriched my reading experience. But since I’m more of the lowbrow douchebag type, I’ll just go ahead and say that it didn’t totally suck ass.
To sum up, while Heartburn lacks a plot, it still offers up an interesting narrative with compelling contemplations on love and affairs, and provides us with a good amount of little and big LOL’s. I highly recommend this to readers who enjoy entertaining meditations on relationships. 4 Pearls.
For those of you considering giving Heartburn a read, it’s worth noting that Ephron is responsible for such romantic classics as Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, as well as My Blue Heaven.
If you decide to purchase it, please click here to buy it at Amazon via my affiliate link which will provide me with a tiny percentage of the cost at no additional charge to you whatsoever.
Bonus quote #1: “I contemplated suicide. Every so often I contemplate suicide merely to remind myself of my complete lack of interest in it as a solution to anything at all. There was a time when I worried about this, when I thought galloping neurosis was wildly romantic, when I longed to be the sort of girl who knew the names of wildflowers and fed baby birds with eyedroppers and rescued bugs from swimming pools and wanted from time to time to end it all. Now, in my golden years, I have come to accept the fact that there is not a neurasthenic drop of blood in my body, and I have become very impatient with it in others. Show me a woman who cries when the trees lose their leaves in autumn and I’ll show you a real asshole.”
Bonus quote #2: “‘You know how old you have to be before you stop wanting to fuck strangers?’ said Arthur. ‘Dead, that’s how old. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t go away. You put all this energy into suppressing it and telling yourself it’s worth it because of what you get in exchange, and then one day someone brushes up against you and you’re fourteen years old again and all you want to do is go to a drive-in movie and fuck her brains out in the back seat. But you don’t do it because you’re not going to be that kind of person, so you go home, and there’s your wife, and she wears socks to bed.’”
For immediate entrance to Heaven upon your demise, save the above Amazon link as a favorite and use it for all your shopping at Amazon. I’ll receive a tiny fraction of the cost of everything you buy and you’ll never be charged even an extra penny. I’m in dire need of a shot of peach schnapps, so your cooperation would be hugely appreciated. By me & the Big Guy in the Sky.