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The Opposite of Loveby Julie Buxbaum
"At first blush, the heroine of Julie Buxbaum's charming first novel seems like a Sex and the City caricature. Emily Haxby is a 29-year-old lawyer with a glamorous Manhattan social life that includes high-heel-clad nights on the town with her gal pal, martinis consumed like potato chips....Though The Opposite of Love is a very funny book, its humor doesn't come at the expense of emotional realism." Sarah L. Courteau, Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
Synopses & Reviews
With perfect pitch for the humor and heartbreak of everyday life, Julie Buxbaum has fashioned a heroine who will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has loved and lost and loved again.
When successful twenty-nine-year-old Manhattan attorney Emily Haxby ends her happy relationship just as her boyfriend is on the verge of proposing, she can't explain to even her closest friends why she did it. Somewhere beneath her sense of fun, her bravado, and her independent exterior, Emily knows that her breakup with Andrew has less to do with him and more to do with...her. "You're your own worst enemy," her best friend Jess tells her. "It's like you get pleasure out of breaking your own heart."
As the holiday season looms and Emily contemplates whether she made a huge mistake, the rest of her world begins to unravel: she is assigned to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit where she must defend the very values she detests by a boss who can't keep his hands to himself; her Grandpa Jack, a charming, feisty octogenarian and the person she cares most about in the world, is losing it, while her emotionally distant father has left her to cope with this alone; and underneath it all, fading memories of her deceased mother continue to remind her that love doesn't last forever.
How this brave, original young heroine finally decides to take control of her life and face the fears that have long haunted her is the great achievement of Julie Buxbaum's marvelous first novel. Written with the authority, grace, and wisdom of an author far beyond her years, The Opposite of Love heralds the debut of a remarkable talent in contemporary fiction.
"Harvard law grad Buxbaum makes an appealing debut with this tale of Yale law graduate Emily Haxby, eager to break through the emotional and professional ties that bind her. 'It's like you get pleasure out of breaking your own heart,' best friend Jess tells Emily after her bustup with her doctor boyfriend. But Emily isn't through self-destructing; she also implodes over her fast-failing Grandpa Jack, from whom Emily learned 'everything... about life'; chilly relations with her lieutenant governor father, Kirk; and a precarious career as a litigator defending big, evil corporations for a Manhattan law firm. This single-gal-in-the-city finds her white-knuckle hold on life and love slowly slipping as it dawns on her that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's emptiness. Grandpa Jack and his retirement home pal, Ruth, help steer Emily to a soft landing, but the big disappointment is that the resolution is far less interesting than the unraveling that precedes it." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"At first blush, the heroine of Julie Buxbaum's charming first novel seems like a 'Sex and the City' caricature. Emily Haxby is a 29-year-old lawyer with a glamorous Manhattan social life that includes high-heel-clad nights on the town with her gal pal, martinis consumed like potato chips, and couplings with her boyfriend in a Saks dressing room. As 'The Opposite of Love' opens, she breaks up with... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) that boyfriend — a doctor who has the bad form to contemplate proposing and, in Emily's dreams, who literally tastes like chicken. Surely an affair with her own Mr. Big, Carrie Bradshaw's elusive soul mate in the HBO series, is just a page turn away. Don't cue the spunky theme song just yet. One of the pleasures of Buxbaum's novel is her manipulation of the conventions of 'Sex and the City' and its literary ilk. Emily's love life is but one complication among many in her life. She's been at her big-time law firm long enough for the charm of her big-time salary to wear off, and she can see her work for the corporate drudgery it is. Her supervisor on an important new case ogles her chest whenever she walks into his office. Her beloved grandfather is sliding into dementia. And since her mother's death 15 years ago, she and her father have grown so distant that they rustle papers into the phone at each other, pretending to be too busy to talk. Underneath the patina of success, Emily feels oddly empty. These are not insignificant problems, but neither are they extraordinary. What gives this novel substance is that Emily must deal with them without the assistance of scene cuts and one-liner windups. Though 'The Opposite of Love' is a very funny book, its humor doesn't come at the expense of emotional realism. The requisite circle of friends is supportive, but there isn't a 'You go, girl' cheerleader in the bunch. And after her breakup, Emily doesn't fall in bed with the next man she meets. In fact, despite her frank talk about sex, she has very little of it in the book. Buxbaum is able to cleverly tweak our expectations in part because her heroine, at nearly every turn, finds her own scripted expectations dashed. Take the 'It's over' talk that sets Emily's narrative in motion: 'The fantasy breakup in my head played out in pantomime; no explanations, only rueful smiles, a kiss good-bye on the cheek, a farewell wave thrown over a shoulder. The sting of nostalgia and the high of release, a combustible package, maybe, but one we would both understand and appreciate.' Instead, her boyfriend, a bit of barbecue sauce clinging to his lip, is devastated. For the most part, Emily's trials and triumphs have a scruffy authenticity. When her boss comes on to her on a business trip, she desperately tries to maintain her professional decorum in a scene that is both funny and all too believable. The next day, struggling to return to the business of deposing witnesses for their big case, Emily finds herself 'acting particularly deferential toward him,' and feels ashamed that she let his behavior rattle her; later, she gets her vengeance not through an elaborate 'gotcha' plan but in an unpremeditated moment. The author knows whereof she writes. A former lawyer and Ivy League law school grad herself, Buxbaum is only a year older than her heroine, and Buxbaum's mother, like her fictional creation's, died when she was 14. Only when Emily begins to right herself does this sure-footed novel stumble a little. There's far too much reliance on geriatric wisdom — from a motherly friend of her grandfather's, and a whole passel of women at his nursing home who, during a book club meeting, chat fondly about finding 'The One.' Further, the resolution of Emily's relationship with her father is too swift to be entirely convincing. If in these feel-good final chapters the novel loses some of its comic bite, that's hardly surprising; Emily's satisfaction doesn't play as easily for laughs as her disaffection does. The real pleasure of this book isn't to be found in moments of high comedy but in the voice of the slightly self-deprecating, slightly sardonic narrator, wise to the world but not yet to herself. What's important is that she's willing to pick her way toward clarity, one difficult step at a time. That a tale about a modern young woman who squarely confronts her garden-variety challenges can feel this fresh is striking. Perhaps, after all, there's something to be said for that geriatric wisdom, which these days is applied less often than it ought to be: A little less self-pity, and a little more gumption. Or, in today's parlance: 'Suck it up.'" Reviewed by Sarah L. Courteau, who is the literary editor of the Wilson Quarterly, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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About the Author
Julie Buxbaum is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. The Opposite of Love is her first novel.
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