Pros: Great premise; fantastic characters; pithily hilarious; great commentary on the social politics of marriage
Cons: Rather painful to read in places (only sort of a ‘con’)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Genie is an admissions counselor at Thoreau college. She’s been dating Hugh for four years, helping him to polish his now-best-selling book, supporting him at every turn while hoping that someday he’ll propose. Then, while he’s being interviewed on live TV, he’s asked if he wants to propose to his own girlfriend. While the audience watches, he does—but poor Genie isn’t the woman he calls. While she tries to process the fact that her boyfriend of four years just proposed to some other woman on national television, her best friend Patty medicates her with tequila and tells the people who start calling to congratulate her that yes, she really is marrying Hugh!
Thus is born the Sleeping Beauty Proposal. It’s Patty’s view that Genie’s been sleeping her way through life, waiting for things to happen instead of taking charge. She needs to get back at Hugh by pretending that they really are engaged; rake in all the benefits that women get when they get married (like a ton of bridal gifts), get in shape, and learn to enjoy life!
But neither of them could have foreseen the extent to which the lie would blossom, and the repercussions to everyone’s lives!
There are parts of Sarah Strohmeyer’s The Sleeping Beauty Proposal that make it difficult to read. Genie constantly worries about how her secret might come out, and watches herself inadvertently sink deeper and deeper into the charade. If you’re the kind of empathetic reader who easily identifies with a lead character, the constant threat of humiliation is a little daunting. That said, the setup makes the perfect vehicle for this story.
Strohmeyer’s book is related in an unusual first-person-present narration from Genie’s point of view, and it works amazingly well. Her perspective on life is fresh and hilarious, and I was constantly laughing my butt off while reading this book. She perfectly skewers the insanity that is unmarried life after 30.
As the gifts pour in, Genie’s mother bulls ahead with wedding plans, and Patty decides she should fake her own engagement, Genie starts to change, to wake up. She falls in love with a house that she wants, and the carpenter who’s been working on it isn’t half bad either. She starts to take charge at work in ways that surprise everyone around her. Now if only she could figure out how to get out of this fake marriage thing without losing everything she’s gained…
I can’t bring myself to say much more than that, because there are some great twists in this book. Some of them are beautifully obvious—which is to say, it’s a ton of fun to watch Genie be deliberately obtuse. Others definitely come as a surprise (or at least, they did to me, and I’d hate to ruin it for anyone else!). Strohmeyer deftly weaves together scalpel-like observations regarding the somewhat backward views of marriage vs. being single in our society with razor-sharp humor and, finally, a true romantic’s sense of love and beauty.
“Give me one good reason why a twentysomething woman should have a kitchen shower simply because she’s getting married whereas a woman in her mid-thirties who happens to cook doesn’t qualify.”
I open my mouth to say something about tradition, but Patty beats me to the punch. “Exactly. You can’t. This is why when my nieces graduate from college and start heading out on their own, I’m going to throw them Welcome-to-Real-Life showers so they can get decent towels and tool sets and matching cutlery. Life begins when you get your own job and apartment, not when some bozo signs a contract claiming exclusive rights to your vagina.”
The dialogue is hilarious, and the characters—from Genie’s parents to her best friend Patty (a legal wizard with a gutter mouth) and hunky carpenter Nick—are terribly fun to spend time with. This is the perfect read for today’s independence-minded thirtysomethings who want love but resent some of the traditional views toward marriage.