Before I go further, I have to tell the story of how the genre of Midwestern Philosophy came to be. My roommate, Amelia, and I were shopping at Border’s. I was looking for the previous book by Malcolm Gladwell, because Matt recommended it to me and I wanted to read it. Well, since Malcolm Gladwell is a non-fiction author, Amelia and I were walking the stacks, searching for Malcolm Gladwell. As I walk down the aisle marked “Western Philosophy,” on the left shelf is where we discovered the stash of Penthouse letters and books with stories about bondage and who knows what else. Amelia and I goggle, and immediately determine that from now on, our name for pornography was going to be Western Philosophy.
Therefore, the genre of Midwestern Philosophy is that of slightly graphic romance novels (some people call it ‘erotica’). And the only reason I put that behind a cut is because I have some work friends who may eventually get this website, and if they already tease me for reading Jane Austen and The Masque of the Black Tulip, one being a classic novelist and the other being a rather tame form of chick lit? Let’s just say that there’s a reason I’m reading seven books at the same time, and that reason is that I can’t exactly bring in a book with a sliver of a naked clinch on the cover and the phrase “an erotic novel” under the title.
Anyhoodle. What I really liked about Stranger was that the focus wasn’t on the sexual escapades. I’ve read a couple of these types before, and there’s a sex scene in every chapter. After a while, it gets to be a little repetitive. But this novel actually lets a plot develop, and it’s rather good.
Grace Frawley has recently taken over the family business: Frawley and Sons Funeral Home. She has a very empathetic understanding of death and the grief process. She handles the widows and the widowers very well, but she can’t stand the thought of loving someone so much only to see them leave before her, or worse (in her opinion), leaving them behind. So, she distances herself by hiring men to take her out for dates and yes, for the occasional night in.
One night, she’s waiting for one of the new ‘rentboys’ to show up and gets picked up by Sam. Sam turns out to not be the stranger she was looking for, but he manages to get under her skin when his father crosses her business’s threshold in a coffin. The majority of the novel is how she balances her previous, pre-Sam life (the business; Jack, a rentboy she comes to have feelings for; her family) with how Sam is integrating herself into her life.
What I really enjoyed about this book was that Grace’s beliefs about death made me reconsider my own beliefs about death. Now, that subject is incredibly personal for me, and happens to be one of the few things I do not like talking about in person or in blog form.
But isn’t that what books are supposed to do — make you consider your own beliefs and ideas, and maybe look at some of them in a different way?
Grade for Stranger: 2 stars