Which Brings Me to You by Steve Almond 

Review by JUSTIN W. SANDERS

Subtitled "a novel in confessions," Which Brings Me to You is a series of letters between two would-be lovers, John and Jane, who, after meeting and promptly messing around in the coat room at a boring wedding, decide they will write to each other (as opposed to, say, dating) the sordid details of all the past romantic escapades that have shaped their respective lives.

Like their creators, co-authors Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott, John and Jane are clever, hyper-articulate, and almost excruciatingly self-analytical. Their anecdotes read like sex fantasies for lit-nerds, as when Jane writes of her ménage à trois adventures with a married couple: "There was the lost feeling—drunken, hazy—of not being one person with two other people, but of being one larger animal, ample and sprawling, an animal that pours over itself and back again...." That's sexy poetry right there, quickly undercut by sexy analysis: "I think that any girl-on-girl action gets caught up in this eroticism that men think is for them," she writes. It's true. For every failed relationship Jane confesses to (there's also the requisite First Love, the exotic Frenchman, and the yuppie who offers security lacking in her daily life), she has burning, clever insight into why it failed.

Almond's John, an ex-surfer, is less ambitious and mellower. His breakups are less pointed; he's tender and all, but lacks conviction. In the story of foxy mom Sunny, he falls in love with her kid as much as he does her. And as a 20-something, he becomes a money-mongering Republican to impress Maria, a foxy Latina immersed in the advertising world.

By the end of Which Brings Me to You (a surprisingly satisfying face-to-face conclusion), it's hard to believe either of these people could ever be with anyone but each other, and not just because her bubbly wit fits so nicely with his laidback charm. Moreover, they've already shared the juiciest parts of their pasts, which is always one of the more annoying obstacles to clear before a budding relationship can truly take flight.

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