Rachel Kramer Bussel's Reviews > The Husband Habit

The Husband Habit by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
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's review
Jul 09, 09

it was amazing
Read in July, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Spoiler alert – don’t keep reading if you don’t want a hint of what happens in the book. Vanessa is a masterful chef, save for the fact that her boss, Hawk, steals her ideas and takes credit for them. But while she’s on top of her recipes, her love life is a mess; every time she meets a guy, whether a fellow chef or an internet dater, he winds up married, and she winds up brokenhearted. Until she vows to go on a dating hiatus, and meets Paul, her parents’ new next door neighbor.

This is not necessarily a chica lit book, or even a chick lit book. It’s more a straight-up romance, in the best possible sense. Once we meet Paul, we know that he and Vanessa are destined to be together. But watching them spar, seeing how much charm, as well as depth, intelligence, and sadness he has, makes this book work. The final storyline I found a little bit unrealistic, given the rest of the plot, but still moving.

This is a love story, one that tackles sisterly rivalry, the Iraq war, stereotypes, bad parenting, and sexist bosses. The political angle doesn’t hit you over the head, but it’s definitely there, and for a book that’s probably classified as “women’s fiction,” Valdes-Rodriguez, in many ways, has made Paul, the former Air Force interrogator, the most compelling character here. His motivations for joining the Force and his disillusionment with the military come across as totally realistic, not to mention disturbing in their implications. They are used to further the story, but they certainly linger after the last page is turned.

I’d have liked to read a little bit more about Vanessa’s history with married men, about her dreams for her dating life; in some ways, as cryptic and secretive as he is, I think we almost get to know Paul better, or perhaps it’s that Vanessa’s life is, in many ways, very simple, focused on food, family, her home, her job and her love life. The most moving scene in my opinion happens in the air, via music, which Paul uses to express himself, where Vanessa, ever the chef, uses food. These characters come to life, even the minor ones, such as Paul’s mom, and even though you may see the ending (or most of it, anyway) coming, you don’t mind because Paul is such an insightful man, who manages to see into Vanessa even when she fails to comprehend what makes him tick. A perfect beach read.

Also, I see this book is classified as a bestseller on Amazon’s “Single Women” list, but Vanessa is more than just some woman looking for a husband over her own. She is cautious, wary of men, and rightfully so; in some ways, this makes her harder to get to know. But this isn’t just a book for or about “single women,” and even the “husband habit” angle, I chalk up more to bad luck than a true “habit.” This is a book women, single or not, can and will enjoy (and, dare I say, men as well).
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