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The Big Love    by Sarah Dunn order for
Big Love
by Sarah Dunn
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Big Love takes us right into a stream of consciousness perspective of events in the life of a vulnerable (and hilarious) young woman, one who (refreshingly) cares 'too much about being good and nice'. The novel opens as Alison Hopkins and her live-in boyfriend Tom host a dinner party for friends. At least that was the script. What actually happens is that Tom fails to return from an errand in search of mustard. Instead, he calls to break up and (the truly unforgiveable part) puts down the phone before Alison can get a word in.

Alison, a lapsed 'evangelical Christian', writes a humor column for an 'alternative newspaper', the 'Philadelphia Times'. Her first lover was 'Gil-the-homosexual', and Tom is number two. Alison's even more devastated by Tom's exit from her life when she learns that he left her for his old girlfriend Kate, whom he'd been 'lunching' with all summer. And after months of writing vignettes on her relationship with Tom, how will Alison fill her column now? Though friends are supportive, her eleven years of cut-rate therapy don't really help, nor does a very funny aside with Bob, the blind (and bald) date.

Soon Alison engages in an out of character, but surprisingly sizzling, fling with a new (her third) lover, who also happens to be her incoming boss Henry. Their relationship is charmingly impulsive, but Alison still hankers after, and hears rumors about, the departed Tom. Of course, her ex eventually shows up again on her doorstep. We know what our heroine should do in this situation, but we wonder what will she do? Will 'Good in Bed' Henry remain only a 'greasy pancake' in Alison's life, and can Tom ever be more than a 'dead monkey' to her?

The Big Love is an engaging ramble through the maze and pitfalls of modern romance, starring someone so genuine that you know there must be an Alison out there somewhere ... probably in Philadelphia. The ending is outstanding, as Alison Hopkins decides that she does indeed want - and deserve - 'the big love'.

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