When a synopsis tells me a book is about certain things, I’m generally going to be interested. Among those things is bookshops and bookshop owners, hence the reason I picked up Twenty-one Truths About Love. It being written in a list format was also intriguing, I’ve read books in prose before, which seemed similar, so I was interested.
Twenty-one Truths was an exasperating reading experience, very nearly a DNF, and is most assuredly not a book I can recommend.
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Published: 19 November 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
1. Daniel Mayrock loves his wife Jill…more than anything.
2. Dan quit his job and opened a bookshop.
3. Jill is ready to have a baby.
4. Dan is scared; the bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent.
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble. He’s ashamed.
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.
This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances—he wants to become someone.
1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. Of living in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.
Dan is also an obsessive list maker, and his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life.
1. Dan’s constant lying to his wife, Jill, in particular regarding their finances.
2. His uncommunicativeness with Jill, again regarding their finances but especially regarding children, his feelings regarding her previous husband, etc.
3. Dan left his job as a teacher to open a bookshop which in and of itself is not a problem. However, he did so without knowing a single thing about the business, without ideas that are so simple as to be a smack in the face, and seems to blame everyone but himself for why the bookshop isn’t make enough money.
4. He never seemed to actually try to make things better in reasonable ways i.e. sales, coupons, events, pairing up with schools for summer reading until the very end which was so absurd.
5. Actually states that he never wanted to be a boss (then WHY did you open a bookshop???).
6. This quote:
Real reasons I quit teaching I wasn’t a good enough teacher It hurt my heart to watch kids waste so much time and ability
I’m not sure he understood his students as well as he thought he did. They wasted their potential? Did he ever ask himself why? Question what might be going on in their lives that might be hurting or causing this? This felt like he was looking for an easy out to explain/excuse his own failings.
7. This quote:
Reasons I opened bookstore Love reading good books Love browsing bookstores Thought it would be easy Stupidest thought I’ve ever had Owning and operating a bookstore would be easy
Oy vey. 🙄
8. Dan made lists of ways to keep his wife from getting pregnant (not including, you know, actually talking to his wife about not wanting children). Based on this, among a litany of other things, I swear, he’s a fucking coward who can’t have a grown-up conversation with his wife about why he doesn’t want children, either now or at all.
9. He’s entirely dismissive of his in-laws’ cultural food (kugel most specifically) because:
You can determine the objective tastiness of a food by the probability of its presence on a restaurant menu. Kugel cannot be found on your average restaurant menu, therefore it objectively sucks.
It depends on the restaurant, asshole. Dan is the type of guy who only goes to a specific rotation of restaurants and likely doesn’t try anything new.
10. Dan is entirely too snooty and judgemental about books throughout Twenty-one Truths, particularly for someone in his position. Judging people for the books they buy, for asking questions that he deems stupid (like someone asking about more books in the Hunger Games trilogy which, hey, jokes on you, Dan, because there IS ANOTHER COMING).
11. This quote:
I’m not stopping myself from being happier. It’s my checking account that’s keeping me from being happy.
12. This quote:
There are FIVE books in the Wrinkle in Time series now.
For someone who gets snooty & elitist about being a bookshop owner, not knowing about An Acceptable Time (1989) is SUPER weird.
13. Dan was jealous of Jill’s dog because Clarence first belonged to her and her first husband, Peter (who died and left Jill a widow). Dan has a big complex about Peter throughout the book that is never really resolved, more kinda-sorta brushed aside at the end if that.
14. This quote:
I ignore dress codes whenever possible because the only people who really care if you are conforming to the dress code are the worst possible people (the same people who expect hand-written thank you notes). Also, everyone is way too busy thinking that everyone is looking at them to worry about me. Also, you have a right to feel good about the way you look.
Dan has no sense of decorum and just when you think he can’t become more of an ass… *gesticulates wildly at above quote*
15. This quote:
When parking my car at a gas station or rest area with the sole intent of going inside to use a restroom or make a purchase, I park in front of a gas pump as if I’m also purchasing gas if no closer space is available.
By this point I’ve got to assume the author was actively trying to make me hate the narrator, right?
16. Throughout the book, Dan has an intense hangup about hampers and clothing being taking out of them immediately. It’s such an annoying, passive aggressive trait that every time he brings it up I felt the need to scream.
17. There is a whole, literal plot where Dan is scouting different bingo games around town with the sole intention to steal the pot from them. Rather than improve his business, he thinks this is a legitimate plan.
18. He ACTUALLY GOES THROUGH WITH THIS PLAN. He ROBS a Daughters of the American Revolution bingo night, ends up having an attack of conscience, returns the money with the help of a guy he made friends with at bingo along the way, and suffers ZERO consequences for being a criminal. WHAT THE FUDGE IS THIS???
19. This quote:
I was an average teacher. Maybe an average husband. A bad bookstore owner. A jealous brother. The worst son. Maybe this is a thing I can do well. I’m doing something that Peter could never do. I’m doing something. I feel like someone. Maybe I’ve watched too many heist movies. It feels so good to be brave.
In almost all regards to the “heist”, even after the fact, he seems proud of it. He never takes responsibility for being a complete asshole, for being a thief. He undertook a heist, he was brave…NO DUDE, YOU WERE A JERK. AN ASSHOLE. You got away with it, but that’s no excuse.
20. He doesn’t deserve his wife or his daughter. Jill ends up undergoing a c-section, saying she’ll go back to work early, that he’s not stupid because he takes on a partner at the bookstore, and all I can think is that she doesn’t deserve this asshole. Nor does this poor kid that was born so early.
21. The book more or less closes with:
Love makes you do the stupidest, bravest, most ridiculous and idiotic things in your life. It makes you scared and crazy and crazed and joyous. Love is all the feelings.
You don’t get to use love as an excuse for the shitty things you do.
Matthew Dicks is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Something Missing, Unexpectedly, Milo, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs, Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling, and the upcoming Twenty-one Truths About Love, The Other Mother and Cardboard Knight. His novels have been translated into more than 25 languages worldwide.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend was the 2014 Dolly Gray Award winner and was a finalist for the 2017 Nutmeg Award in Connecticut.
He is also the author of the rock opera The Clowns and the musicals Caught in the Middle, Sticks & Stones, and Summertime. He has written comic books for Double Take comics. He is the humor columnist for Seasons magazine and a columnist for Slate magazine. He has also published for Reader’s Digest, The Hartford Courant, Parents magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor.
The Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists awarded him first prize in opinion/humor writing in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2019.
When not hunched over a computer screen, Matthew fills his days as an elementary school teacher, a storyteller, a speaking coach, a blogger, a wedding DJ, a minister, a life coach, and a Lord of Sealand. He has been teaching for 21 years and is a former West Hartford Teacher of the Year and a finalist for Connecticut Teacher of the Year.
Matthew is a 45-time Moth StorySLAM champion and 6-time GrandSLAM champion whose stories have been featured on their nationally syndicated Moth Radio Hour and their weekly podcast. One of his stories has also appeared on PBS’s Stories From the Stage.
He has also told stories for This American Life, TED, The Colin McEnroe Show, The Story Collider, The Liar Show, Literary Death Match, The Mouth, and many others. He has performed in such venues as the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Wilbur Theater, The Academy of Music in North Hampton, CT, The Bynam Theater of Pittsburgh, The Bell House in NYC, The Lebanon Opera House, The Cutler Majestic, Boston University, Yale University, and Infinity Hall in Hartford, CT.
Matthew is also the co-founder and creative director of Speak Up, a Hartford-based storytelling organization that produces shows throughout New England. He teaches storytelling and public speaking to individuals, corporations, universities, religious institutions, and school districts around the world. He has most recently taught at Yale University, The University of Connecticut Law School, Purdue University, The Connecticut Historical Society, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Miss Porter’s School, The Berkshire School, and Graded School in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Matthew is the creator, producer, and co-host of Speak Up Storytelling, a podcast that teaches people to tell their best stories.
Matthew is also the creator and co-host of Boy vs. Girl, a podcast about gender and gender stereotypes.
Matthew is married to friend and fellow teacher, Elysha, and they have two children, Clara and Charlie. He grew up in the small town of Blackstone, Massachusetts, where he made a name for himself by dying twice before the age of eighteen and becoming the first student in his high school to be suspended for inciting riot upon himself.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.
All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.