When you have a cast of 35 narrators—everything from passing neighbors to frogs, macaws, and emergency brakes—a novel could easily be too scattered, or even worse, too cutesy. Yet first-time novelist Rudolph Delson's Maynard & Jennica manages to curtail the cute and moves straight to distinctly charming. Quite a feat for such a tricky setup. Obviously it helps when the characters are as entertaining as Maynard and Jennica.
Delson writes lovingly of two New Yorkers: Maynard, a misanthropic musician who makes short films about dog poop and people's poor fashion sense; and Jennica, a driven romantic who moves to New York from California to be "illustrious." What follows is a darting relationship spanning from the summer of 2000 to post-9/11, as Maynard and Jennica meet, date, break up, and more. But not only do you hear both people's sides of the story: You hear from Maynard's drunken mother, Jennica's wisecracking parents, Maynard's German green card wife, and lest we forget, the occasional bird and cricket. Because Maynard and Jennica's stories about their relationship are so self-referentially skewed, the inclusion of other narrators makes for a stronger, funnier, and heartfelt story.
Delson's novel can be easily devoured in an afternoon: The characters are all delightful and distinctive, which makes for a breezy but moving read. And the rare times when Maynard & Jennica feels stilted is when Delson tries a little too hard to evoke the spirit of Vonnegut. But these moments are fleeting. Delson quickly kicks back into gear with his strong personal voice, and the novel retains its original sense of purpose: to make you fall in love with New York City and two of its bumbling denizens.
Maynard & Jennica is the sort of novel that screams to be made into a film. Apparently Hollywood thinks so too, as producer Scott Rudin (The Royal Tenenbaums, I Heart Huckabees) has already optioned the rights to the book. The film adaptation could easily be botched (think rom-com with the likes of Jennifer Aniston as Jennica and Vince Vaughn as the flippant Maynard). Don't wait for the film—read this little gem of a book. 'Cause who could argue with being charmed?