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Expiation by Greg Messel

Expiation by Greg Messel: Dan and Katie are high school sweethearts who break up during their first year apart, attending college in different states. They completely lose touch with each other for thirty years, then reconnect and fall in love again. Their friends and family are completely supportive. And that’s pretty much the entire story, but it’s not a spoiler because it happens in the first two chapters. In fact, most of the book is thoroughly summarized in early chapters, then again right before being described in detail. Dan is narrating, and considering both he and the author are former newspapermen it wasn’t so surprising this novel was laid out much like a news article. I felt like I was having a story described to me, rather than actually reading it first hand. With so much advanced warning for every event, I felt no emotional response whatsoever. Of course, it didn’t help that Dan and Katie were completely devoid of personality. I have absolutely no idea what they saw in each other because the only thing they ever talked about was how in love they are and how attractive they still find each other. I remember having similar conversations with beaus in high school, but I can’t imagine being satisfied with such empty talk in my late 40s.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. I liked Dan’s first wife Wendy and his brother, who both had strong and memorable – if a touch stereotypical – personalities. The reading was reasonably fast, allowing even a slow reader like me to plow through multiple chapters in a sitting. The issue was mostly a lack of conflict, which led to a lack of plot. I really wish more had been done with the pack of letters, or Dan’s marital troubles, or even Diana’s financial woes. If you like simple romance novels, you may enjoy this one, since that’s essentially what it is: a story about a romance. I, alas, am a more demanding reader.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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