This week, we are looking at an intriguing examination of social media, reality television, and homelessness… all within the confines of a literally laugh out loud romantic comedy. This week, we are looking at Good Man, Dalton by Karen McQuestion.
Structurally, this book is intriguing because while it uses the split chapter approach so common in romance novels these days, it doesn’t actually have the couple meet up until just over 50% into the book. Instead, the first half of the book focuses on the individual arcs of the lead couple, and it is here that the book is perhaps its most moving.
Greta is a young college graduate who gets an internship with her second cousin’s prestigious New York City mega-company. She only knows her cousin through the family Christmas cards and the cousin’s perfectly fabulous social media channels, and she is awestruck. But when she gets a peek behind the curtains… McQuestion begins to show the reality of “reality television” that many of us have long suspected. Dalton is heading to New York City on a two week experiment of what it means to be homeless. He has carefully planned this excursion so that he has no easy access to the comforts and privileges he has enjoyed his entire life, and when he actually gets there and begins learning on the street, he finds that even many of the theories he has learned in college at even the graduate level are… in reality not always as the textbooks claim. Here again, McQuestion embarks on an intriguing examination of just what it means to be homeless in America circa 2020 ish, along with some intriguing ideas for approaches that may actually work.
At just before the halfway point, Greta and Dalton see each other for just a few seconds… and instantly realize there is some connection with this stranger on the other side of the glass. Just after the halfway point, their lives intersect again and they remain around each other through the end of the book. It is in this section of the book that it becomes perhaps its most hilarious, if a bit more “standard” in story. But even here, McQuestion plays with the questions of reality and living up to expectations.
Overall this is a remarkable work that is elevated by both McQuestion’s talent as a writer and the storytelling decisions she made. Both serve to take what could have been just another run of the mill New York City based romantic comedy and make it something that could stick with the reader for quite a while, in a way I’ve only ever seen done once in all the books I’ve ever read as it relates to homelessness in particular – Creston Mapes‘ 2007 work Nobody.
This is quite possibly the best book I’ve read so far in 2019, and I look forward to seeing what Ms. McQuestion has in store for us next.
As always, we end with the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Laugh Out Loud Yet Thought Provoking. This book can be read as a straight fish out of water romantic comedy, and it works well in that regard (and the back half of it is mostly just this). But where its true power lies is in the questions it provokes in the separate paths our leads take to meeting each other by chance halfway through the book. Greta’s front half is an examination of the reality of social media and reality TV, particularly for those who are hyper=focused about monetizing it. The titular Dalton’s front half poses some intriguing looks at the realities of homelessness, specifically as it relates to New York City but even, it seems, as a more general concern. Overall a truly exceptional work that can be read in multiple ways and still work well no matter what your particular focus is on. Very much looking forward to future work from this author.