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George and Lizzie

Review

George and Lizzie

You may recognize Nancy Pearl, “America’s Librarian,” from her book reviews in newspapers or her reading lists shared on NPR. Now this well-read librarian is throwing her own hat into the novelist ring, as it were, publishing her first novel, an unusual love story titled GEORGE AND LIZZIE.

The book essentially opens with George and Lizzie’s first meeting, when Lizzie is an undergraduate at the University of Michigan and George is a graduate student in the dental program there. The two meet in a cute manner --- Lizzie inadvertently ruins George’s bowling score while he’s out on a date with another woman --- but then the narrative steps back, revealing more about its main characters (Lizzie, in particular) before returning to their story together.

"Ultimately, GEORGE AND LIZZIE is a quirky, quietly unconventional love story that will be certain to prompt much discussion among readers about the choices its characters make."

It’s probably not surprising that Lizzie has more than a little trouble figuring out appropriate interpersonal relationships. The daughter of two behavioral psychologists, Lizzie has been raised in an environment rich in intellectual stimulation, stability and security, but perhaps more than a little starved for affection. During her senior year in high school, Lizzie and her best friend Andrea hatch a plan they dub the “Great Game,” planning to sleep with the entire high school football team (or at least all of the starters) before graduation. When Andrea has second thoughts, Lizzie plows ahead solo, resulting in a series of amusing anecdotes she can’t really share with anyone else, as well as a persistent sense of self-loathing that endures even after she starts college.

There, Lizzie falls madly in love with a fellow student, Jack, who shares her love of poetry but isn’t afraid to argue with her about the relative merits of the poets they each love best. When, after a revelation that coincides with Jack’s graduation, Lizzie loses touch with Jack, she never stops hoping that she’ll see him again, that they’ll be able to rekindle that passion they had during their brief romance.

And that’s where George comes in. From Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of a dentist and a stay-at-home mom, George has exactly the kind of down-to-earth, traditional upbringing and outlook that should, on paper at least, appeal to Lizzie. And it does, of course --- she develops a genuine affection for George --- but she also can’t quiet those voices in her head, the ones that chide her for the Great Game and that try to convince her to hold out for a grand romance like the one she envisioned with Jack.

Some readers may find Lizzie’s overwhelming devotion to Jack as frustrating as her friends do --- they were only together for six months or so, after all --- but anyone who can remember the intensity of young love and heartbreak might find Lizzie’s predicament sympathetic. Where Pearl’s novel really shines is in moments of keen observation and gentle humor --- the relationship Lizzie develops with George’s mom is particularly well drawn. Less successful are the handful of sections written from George’s point of view. Perhaps given the book’s title, the author felt compelled to incorporate his perspective at least intermittently, but in reality the novel’s emotional heart and drama reside in Lizzie’s story, not in George’s. Certainly there is some winking humor to be found in George’s story. When he becomes an accidental celebrity and lands a regular gig commenting on NPR, it’s hard not to imagine that Pearl, the celebrity librarian, is injecting a little of her own life story into George’s.

Ultimately, GEORGE AND LIZZIE is a quirky, quietly unconventional love story that will be certain to prompt much discussion among readers about the choices its characters make.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 15, 2017

George and Lizzie
by Nancy Pearl

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • ISBN-10: 1501162896
  • ISBN-13: 9781501162893