Olga Godim's Reviews > Call Me Irresistible

Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
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May 24, 12

bookshelves: romance

For a long time, no book has affected me so profoundly or inspired such a storm of controversial emotions. On one hand, I gave it 5 stars, so obviously I consider it an excellent book. On the other hand, I really, and I mean REALLY, hated it. It made my depression worsen. I couldn’t sleep. I cried. Long after I finished the novel, my heart continued its mad rush. I needed my medication to calm down.
My problem with the story is that the writer put her heroine in a situation with no choices. It sounds like a solid literary device, but I don’t think many of you have experienced such a situation in real life. I don’t think Ms. Phillips has, but I have. I lived half of my life in a dictatorial state, where the government denied choices to everyone. Only one narrow path stretched in front of you, not a path really but a tunnel, with dark walls rising indefinitely on both sides. You couldn’t climb those walls or detour around them. To survive, you had to drag your feet along that tunnel, in step with everyone else: a tiny shuffling ant in an army of shuffling ants. I hated it with all my guts. Living without a choice is too terrible for the soul; most North Americans can’t imagine it. They only read about it in books.
So when Ms. Phillips put her protagonist Meg into such an untenable situation, I hated her. In my eyes, the writer acted as a dictator, a merciless ruler who pushed her heroine into that narrow, claustrophobic tunnel, closed the gates, and threw away the key.
In the beginning of the story, Meg’s rich and famous parents cut off her allowance because she couldn’t find a job. They left her penniless and homeless in a hostile town. Without a warning. Without a safety net. Without medical insurance.
Many writers use a similar plot wrinkle to introduce obstacles for the protagonist, but every time I encounter such an artificial contrivance, I usually stop reading in disgust. I couldn’t do that with this novel. Ms. Phillips is too good a writer to let me off the hook that easily. Instead, I wept. My stomach twisted with sympathy for Meg. I tossed the book away and I stomped around my apartment for a while, but then I always picked up the book again and continued with this masochistic exercise until the last page. I wanted to know what happened to Meg next.
If it were me in such a situation, I’d never forgive my family for their cruelty. I’d never forgive the whole bunch of those nasty town people who tormented Meg just because she broke up the wedding of their beloved mayor. But Meg had a bigger heart than mine. She forgave them all in the end. Even more: she wished only the best for them. She was ready to sacrifice her happiness for theirs.
I don’t believe it. I’m sure such a turn of events can only happen in fiction. Think about your neighbors in real life. When some of them get antagonistic, do you smile and turn the other cheek? I doubt it. I’m convinced most of you would pay back with the same coin or at least with cold disdain. In extreme cases, some of you might pay back with bullets. But Ms. Phillips is such an exceptional writer, she makes me believe in Meg’s bottomless goodness, makes me shed tears for Meg’s plight, and I hate her for that.
I hate her for making me believe a lie. I’ve seen people who have nobody to turn to. They inevitably end up in the gutter. In my experience, nothing negative can breed positive. The absence of love doesn’t lead to compassion. Poverty and deprivation don’t generate honesty. Persecution doesn’t inspire kindness, and scorn doesn’t result in respect. So why does Meg care for those who don’t care for her? I don’t want to believe it, but the first rate writer who has written Meg’s story gives me no choice, just as she gave no choices to Meg.
Maybe I’m just mean-spirited but I wish Ms. Phillips experienced, at least once in her life, a whirlpool of bitter helplessness that comes when your choices have been taken away. Maybe then she would stop spinning such uplifting and untruthful tales about it. But maybe then I’d stop reading her books? Maybe the truth doesn’t matter after all?
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