From Goodreads: Peter Herman is something of a folk hero. Marriage Is a Canoe, his decades-old book on love and relationships, has won the hearts of hopeful romantics and desperate cynics alike. Peter and his wife lived a peaceful life, but now it’s 2010, and his wife has just died. He passes time with a woman he admires but doesn’t love—and he begins to question the advice he’s famously doled out for decades.
Then he receives a call from Stella Petrovic, an ambitious young editor who wants to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Marriage Is a Canoe with a contest for struggling couples. The prize? An afternoon with Peter and a chance to save their relationship.
The contest ensnares Stella in the opaque politics of her publishing house, while it introduces the reader to couples in varied states of distress: a shy thirty-something Brooklynite whose husband may be just a bit too charismatic for his own good; a middle-aged publisher whose imposing manner has imposed loneliness on her for longer than she cares to admit. Then there’s Peter, who must discover what he meant when he wrote Marriage Is a Canoe if he is going to help the contest’s winners and find a way to love again.
Is there anything wrong with liking the expected? Much like Love Is a Canoe’s Emily, I enjoy dark chocolate, white wine, cashmere, yoga, literary books, and obscure movies. Do I like it because it is expected of me (a twenty something science librarian who likes to travel), or do I like it because I genuinely enjoy these things? I don’t know and neither does Emily. Just something to think about…
Love Is a Canoe is the new novel by Ben Schrank. I’ve read a handful of other reviews and this is a novel that seems to be a hit or a miss with readers. I firmly believe it is one of the former. I absolutely, unequivocally loved it.
The story follows the lives of couple Emily and Eli, Peter, and publicist Stella as their lives slowly intersect. Emily (my favorite) has an ongoing internal struggle over the idea of how life should be. Eli is just an absolute cad. Peter is an emotional con man. Stella is a young professional obsessed with her job at a publishing house. These characters coming together equals disaster, funny only because it is fictional. (Side note: If any man ever explained to me “Women like me and you know I say yes” as an excuse for poor behavior…I don’t know what I’d do, but it would involve bloody, violent thoughts (I’m not prone to action – typical introvert)).
Disarmingly simplistic chapters from Marriage Is a Canoe, Peter Herman’s bestselling book, are interlaced throughout the story. Herman’s book doles out heartwarming advice like stay in your own canoe (marriage) and take time to be alone together. These sage bits of wisdom, though bordering between sweet and ridiculous, work quite well within the story.
Love Is a Canoe is an immensely readable, funny, heartwarming (yet sad), witty, romantic, and hopeful novel about the demise and delusions of love, marriage, and career. There are moments of brilliant dialogue, raw emotion, and brittle hope. You might even learn a bit about publishing. And love. And that perfectly retro cover is an image to be savored. 5/5. Review copy provided by Sarah Creighton/FSG.
I’m always curious about authors’ playlists, find Ben Schrank’s Love Is A Canoe playlist here.
The novel has many food references, though I wouldn’t call it foodie fiction. Since it is set in New York, I’m choosing the obvious and going with pizza (an opportunity I rarely pass up). Try the classic Pizza Magherita.