I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.
The Story Guy is Mary Ann Rivers’s debut and oh, what a debut it is. It is incandescent, it is astonishing.
Told in first person, it is the story of two lonely people and how they connect with each other and then make space in their lives for each other.
Carrie is a librarian. She has a fulfilling professional life and lots of friends, but she’s alone and in a rut. Late one night, while browsing online personals, she comes across one that intrigues her–a man wishes to meet someone on Wednesdays at lunchtime for kissing, only.
My life is cozy, but I’m starting to let myself think I want something wet and aching stabbed through it. I want something substantial. I want to gorge myself. Excess.
Drawn in, Carrie contacts Brian and they make a date for the following Wednesday.
And their lives are changed forever. Carrie has room in her life for Brian. Brian has hardly any room in his life for anyone but himself and his medically fragile sister, Stacy (who does not die, by the way). And yet. And yet.
I have never had a first kiss like this. Is it that he’s a stranger? So beautiful? If so, I am runed for anything but beautiful strangers for the rest of my life.
This novella is a gorgeous and eloquent story of two utterly ordinary people finding each other. It’s the story of a man who is willing to sacrifice his entire life for his sister because that is what you do for family. It’s the story of a woman who demands that he make space in his life–while still honoring his sister’s needs and knowing that those needs have to come first.
Because no one should have to give everything they are to just one person at the expense of their own life.
Stacy, even though she cannot speak, is a palpable presence and an important part of this book. The way Brian cares for her reminded me, very much, of Harriet McBryde Johnson’s essay “The Disability Gulag”.
I really can’t put into words how wonderful this book is. Rivers has such a way with words–her prose is lean and spare, much like the lives of both Carrie and Brian. There’s also poetry here and words the cut right to the heart of what romance is about. It’s pushing at the edges of genre and making more room–the way Carrie pushes, just a little bit, at Brian’s edges.
I love that I was brave enough to stop being so comfortable and I love that he was brave enough to accept comfort.
“No, you don’t understand,” he whispers against my ear. “You were the first thing I had asked for, just for me, in a long, long time.”
There is so much raw truth in this book. I want to quote it all.
This is, of course, the privilege of love, to bear witness to a strong man’s grief over the little sister he could never save, as much as he has tried to, with every moment of his life.
To have the love of this man, who knows what it is to sacrifice his life for love, I would have waited longer.
It’s Wednesday, though, and the time in front of us is immeasurable, the hours crowded past every capacity.
This book, truly, is the “middle finger brandished in the face of existential despair”. Go read it. You won’t be sorry.