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Twenty-one Truths About Love


Twenty-one Truths About Love

Written entirely in lists, TWENTY-ONE TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE is a fresh, original new novel from Matthew Dicks, the author of MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND. Blending humorous and witty takes on life’s idiosyncrasies with a raw and deeply human main character, Dicks pens the perfect between-the-holidays book for readers who enjoyed MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE and HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

The first thing you must know about Daniel Mayrock is that he loves his wife, Jill, and wonders every single day how a woman so cool and so self-assured chose an average guy like him to be her second husband. (That’s right, second husband; Jill’s first husband is a specter that hangs over their marriage, bolstering Dan’s insecurities and forcing him to wonder if he will ever measure up.) The next thing to know about Dan is that he is a proud (well, semi-proud) bookstore owner...of a failing bookstore that has nearly drained his family’s savings. The third, and perhaps most important, thing to know about Dan is that he has been lying to his wife about the bookstore, his income and, well, a little of everything.

Knowing full well the extent of their debt, Dan has been, ahem, “faking it” through their attempts to produce a child, even though Jill is ready and eager to become a mother. Trapped in a web of his own lies and desperate to avoid hurting his wife, Dan obsessively writes lists --- lists about his responsibilities; lists about ways to get out of debt, fast; lists about his daily observations; and even lists about lists. Using sparse but vivid and immediate prose, Dicks unpacks the anxiety- and love-filled life of Dan Mayrock, and how he discovers the truth(s) about love.

"I truly do not know how he’s done it, but Dicks has crafted a book that feels a bit like a rollercoaster, with a pacing that is perfectly in tune with its main character’s emotions."

Making lists and faking it in bed are easy enough, but when Jill really becomes pregnant, Dan has to figure out a way to support his growing family, deal with his fears about being a father and come clean to his wife --- fast. What follows is a zany and twist-filled ride through debt, failed business endeavors and learning to accept oneself. Dan constantly strays from the realm of believability by choosing the least certain and most foolhardy ways to improve his situation, but through it all, he maintains a real sense of heart and earnestness.

I’m fully aware that I’m not making Dan sound like a great guy right now, but despite his flaws, he is a truly wonderful protagonist: dreamy and inquisitive, but often shortsighted and a bit reckless. Dan is not the most unique character at face value --- what thirty-something guy isn’t struggling with honesty, commitment or feeling like a failure? --- but what makes him extraordinary is the reader’s raw, limitless access to the inner workings of his mind. Dicks writes with complete humility and grace, elevating ordinary Dan to someone you want to root for, even when you are grimacing at his choices. He is also deeply anxious --- and not just about his failing bookstore, but about his wife, his career path and so much more --- and the unique list format mirrors his anxieties in a way that makes the book feel totally immersive.

As you speed through these lists and bounce from subject to subject, your own heartbeat increases, and before you know it, you’re ready to make some anxiety-fueled lists, too. I truly do not know how he’s done it, but Dicks has crafted a book that feels a bit like a rollercoaster, with a pacing that is perfectly in tune with its main character’s emotions.

If a book written entirely in lists sounds unusual, you’re not wrong. Though epistolary novels are popular across all genres, TWENTY-ONE TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE is unique in its format. As intriguing as I initially found this style, I was equally worried that Dicks would not be able to fully flesh out his characters and their motivations through lists and lists alone. Reader, I am so happy to report that I was dead wrong. Because of the limits that lists present, Dicks has taken great care and effort to select every word carefully so that each and every one is packed with meaning. Even when Dan’s lists veer from the immediate plotline, they provide tons of depth into his character --- after all, haven’t you ever wondered about the thoughts that keep Harry Potter up at night, or dreamt about what Sherlock Holmes might say about cartoon character-themed diapers?

With this book, you get the full picture of Dicks’ protagonist: his observations on football, his thoughts on school administrations and so much more. Dicks has somehow turned what could have been an impediment into an experiment in creativity, and Dan is all the more wholly developed for it.

TWENTY-ONE TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE is a lightning fast read. Poignant though they may be, Dan’s lists read very quickly, but I recommend you savor this one. It is the perfect book to get you through the holidays --- read a few lists before Thanksgiving dinner and continue long after the leftovers are finished. Packed with humor, heart and oh-so-many lists, this novel is full of countless truths about life, love and the anxieties that propel us through it all.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on November 22, 2019

Twenty-one Truths About Love
by Matthew Dicks

  • Publication Date: February 2, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250782937
  • ISBN-13: 9781250782939