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Evvie Drake Starts Over

Review

Evvie Drake Starts Over

From Linda Holmes, the host of NPR’s hit podcast “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” comes EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER, a witty and charming debut about second chances.

For the past year of her life, the eponymous Evvie Drake has played the part of the grieving widow following her doctor husband’s tragic and sudden death from a car accident. But what no one knows is that Evvie was planning on leaving Tim and was, in fact, sitting in her car with her packed bags when she received the news about his accident. Tim was beloved by their small-town friends and even once saved her father’s life. But he could also be cruel and judgmental, and on the day she decided to start over, he went and died before she could make the choice to leave herself. Now Evvie is paralyzed by her shame at feeling no sadness about his death, and the realization that her life will always be defined (especially in their cozy coastal town in Maine) by the label of “widow.”

"EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER is a gentle, quiet novel that manages to pack a punch without any unnecessary drama or overly romantic undertones."

In a very different part of the world, baseball player Dean Tenney has suffered one of the worst losses imaginable in professional sports: he is a Yankee with the yips. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “yips,” it is the strange and inexplicable phenomenon that occurs when an athlete loses the ability to do what makes him or her special --- suddenly and without any apparent cause. For Dean, this means he can no longer pitch and that his career as a World Series player is over. Whether you’re a baseball fanatic or barely know what a home run is (like this reviewer), it should come as no surprise that being a Yankee with the yips puts one under an unbearable amount of scrutiny, derision and shame.

Evvie and Dean are brought together by a mutual friend, Andy, who believes that Dean could use a break from the spotlight and Evvie could use a renter in her big, no-longer-paid-for-by-a-doctor house. Dean and Evvie hit it off immediately, but agree to never ask one another about late husbands or baseball, making their friendship easy and light, if at times a bit shallow. Evvie is intensely private (even Andy had no idea she was unhappy in her marriage), so this arrangement is easy for her, but Dean soon forces her to confront her boundaries and press on for her own happiness. At the same time, Evvie tries to remind Dean why he loved baseball before the major leagues came calling. With plenty of witty banter, a lot of intelligent discussion and just a few sparks of romance, Evvie and Dean ease one another into their new lives --- and discover something magical along the way.

Evvie and Dean are perfectly normal people --- flawed, scared and searching for happiness --- in unique situations, and Holmes invites readers to not only read about their struggles, but to truly get to know them. This feels like a real grown-up romance in that the characters are mature, more or less stable, and a bit set in their ways. As a result, there is no hungry, laughably passionate “love at first sight,” but rather a lot of compromise, some hard-hitting conversations and plenty of mutual respect. Holmes writes intensely nuanced relationships, particularly between members of the opposite sex, in a seemingly effortless way that makes her characters positively leap off the page. Though they are going through some tough times, Holmes fleshes them out with hobbies and passions that add some levity to this romantic comedy. Dean, for instance, is a huge nerd with a surprising love of Comic Cons and pinball machines.

Beyond her characters, Holmes demonstrates a pitch-perfect talent for writing settings and dialogue and injecting just the right amount of pop culture into all of the above. Her dialogue is whip-smart and modern --- Evvie has no problem correcting Dean when he uses speech that has misogynistic undertones (i.e. referring to a woman as a girl). Readers will also adore Holmes’ descriptions of the small fishing town of Calcasset, Maine, which presents itself as its own character in the book, largely thanks to Evvie’s penchant for storytelling.

EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER is a gentle, quiet novel that manages to pack a punch without any unnecessary drama or overly romantic undertones. If you love well-written characters, quirky towns, and charming, hopeful love stories, this is the perfect book for your next summer read.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on June 28, 2019

Evvie Drake Starts Over
by Linda Holmes

  • Publication Date: June 25, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0525619240
  • ISBN-13: 9780525619246