Seven things to know about Twenty-One Truths About Love:
- It’s a novel written entirely in lists (and, taking a cue from author Matthew Dicks, this review will follow suit).
- Love is in the title, so you already know to get the tissues ready.
- The main character, Dan, owns a bookstore.
- I repeat, the main character owns a bookstore.
- Dan is struggling financially and is terrified to tell his wife, Jill, who is desperate to start a family.
- Dan lies to keep his marriage afloat.
- Then comes baby.
Okay, but who is Dan really?
- Dan is, first and foremost, the loving husband to Jill. Everything Dan does (and every little white lie Dan tells) is in an effort to prove himself worthy of Jill, his wicked cool, self-assured, what-the-heck-is-she-doing-with-a-guy-like-me wife.
- Dan is also a bucket of anxiety who constantly worries himself that he cannot measure up to Jill’s deceased first husband. Or his own brother. Or his friends. (Raise your hand if you can relate!)
- Dan used to be a teacher, because it seemed like the right thing to do, but his real dream has always been to open a bookstore where he could recommend his favorites to new readers. (Spoilers: This is not all that being a bookstore owner is about.)
- Dan absolutely does not want to be a dad.
- Dan does not know how to tell his wife this.
- Instead of explaining his fears to Jill, Dan compromises by, ahem, “faking it” and surprise, Jill gets pregnant!
- The reason Dan doesn’t want to be a dad? His own father walked out on his family when Dan was young, and Dan fears that he has no model for how to be a good father.
- If your only thought right now is that Dan is one pretty messed up guy, you are correct—but don’t worry, Dan is entirely self-aware and deliciously self-deprecating.
- 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 Dan 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. (Don’t lie to your wife, Dan!)
What can I expect from reading Twenty-One Truths About Love?
- Have I mentioned the lists yet? Sharply written and bitingly humorous, the lists are without a doubt the best part of this book.
- Dan has a unique way of looking at the world, and his seemingly random observations on things like football, diapers and school administrations add a ton of levity and laughs to his otherwise somewhat disheartening storyline.
- But that’s not all! Twenty-One Truths About Love sounds fun and lighthearted, but it deals with a ton of serious themes, including fatherhood, marriage, career choices, anxiety, obsession, deceit, feeling like a failure and, of course, love.
- L-O-V-E, love. Dan is the type of character who will stop at nothing to help the ones he loves, starting with his wife and ending with the newest love of his life, his child. Though the title claims that this book includes twenty-one truths about love, I’d wager that there are way more than that hidden between the lines.
Why should I read a book written entirely in lists?
- Lists read fast, making this the perfect book to squeeze into your holiday prep and family gatherings.
- Because lists make for quick reads, the pacing of the book starts to mirror Dan’s feelings of anxiety, making this book incredibly immersive.
- Though the text may seem sparse, you actually learn way more about the characters through Dicks’ unconventional style—just imagine knowing the thoughts that keep your favorite characters up at night, even if they don’t necessarily push the plot forward.
- The limited text forces Dicks to get right to the point every time, meaning that each and every word truly counts, and they all add up to a striking, vivid portrait of Dan, as well as snapshots of his wife and friends.
- If there’s anything Buzzfeed has proven to us, it’s that lists are fun!
Are there any reasons not to like Twenty-One Truths About Love?
- As much as I enjoyed the list format of this book, I can see how it could be off-putting at first. As I mentioned above, this book moves fast, so if you’re looking for a slow, luxurious read, this might not be it.
- Without longer, drawn-out descriptions, it can be tricky at first to keep the supporting characters straight.
- Fair warning to all sports fans: Dan attends a Patriots game early on, so if you’re still reeling from Deflategate, be prepared to stifle a little anger.
- You’re definitely going to cry.
One final truth about Twenty-One Truths About Love:
- If you’re looking for a fun, fresh, and—I cannot stress this enough—incredibly heartwarming book about themes like fatherhood, family, and living up to one’s potential, Matthew Dicks has crafted the perfectly imperfect character in Dan Mayrock, and his ingenious list-format makes this a can’t-be-missed read that will get you through the chaos and forced family gatherings of the holiday season with plenty of laughs and lots of love.