The Republic of Love: A Novel - Carol Shields

This is not my first Carol Shields’ book, so I had expectations when I read it. I expected vivid descriptions, sharp, ironic dialogue, and a plot that moves along gently in the background. I expected to experience ordinary life through the eyes of a keen observer, and see it elevated to a thing of beauty.


There is no heart stopping mystery, no edge of your seat drama. It’s not even a real page- turner. This book is more like a visit from an old friend. You are excited to begin, and certainly not in a hurry for it to be over. You want it to last.


Just past the halfway point, the action slowed down a bit for me. It’s told from two viewpoints, Fay, who’s never been married, and Tom, whose experience is a bit sketchier. This helps to move the story along, except when it stops you in the middle of things to switch to the other person. But their everyday lives and the details of their friends give life to the story, and their careers add an extra dimension to the drama. I can’t tell you the last time I read a good book about a folklorist. Honestly, until I read this book, I didn’t even know that was a profession. (Sorry to all you folklorists out there.) Fay is the folklorist, whose expertise is mermaids — really, how cool is that? Despite the fact that this novel was written in the 90s, Fay’s workday is described with all the ease and friendly office banter of an internet start-up. Well, all the perks of those kinds of jobs, without any of the pressure or long hours. 


Tom, on the other hand, is the late-night call-in show DJ. His life begins most days after midnight, with his own eclectic collection of listeners. Since I don’t know anyone with either of these jobs, I found this interesting. Putting the two of them together is like the melding of two worlds. Their attraction at first is so intense it was almost unbelievable. But, as life butts it’s head into the romance, I found it much more realistic. Am I becoming a cynic, or was Carol Shields? Not really sure, but do not fear here. It follows my favorite story arc (yes, I’ve gone and admitted it now) – girl meets boy, girl dumps boy, girl lets boy come back. Like most good books, you may see it coming, and figure out how it will all play out, but this will not make you rush; it will make the pages more enjoyable.


When it’s the middle of February, with about three feet of snow outside, on a wet and freezing day, what could possibly be better than a good book like this, and a nice warm blanket?