By Patrick R. Pacheco on July 21, 2013
While I'm unfamiliar with the "chick lit" genre, I picked up Nancy Farkas's "This Nearly Was Mine" as she is the spouse of a colleague. Glad I did. It's a delightful, funny, sexy, fascinating and perceptive novel about Annie, a social worker whose emotional needs are met by two men--a handsome, passionate and mysterious Spaniard and a good-looking, kind, amusing and even-tempered husband. At one point, her spouse Matthew makes a fitting reference to "Dona Flor and her Two Husbands," a 1976 Portuguese comedy about a rakish ne'er-do-well husband who, after death, returns as a rather carnal ghost to haunt his wife and mock his placid and responsible successor. Farkas has set up something of the same dynamic with an emotionally complex heroine at its center. It's not hard to see why two such psychological opposites would be attracted to Annie, a dark-haired beauty. She's as naïve as she is knowing, as sexually open as she is innocent, as consistent as she is contradictory, and as needy as a child living within a self-possessed and liberated woman of her generation. Mind you, my evaluation is all from the perspective of a male of the species. But what I find most compelling about the book--and what makes it so amusing--is Annie's honesty and bluntness, particularly in her e-mails to Francisco, the Spanish "paramour," and in her occasional harangues to Matthew, her patient workaholic of a husband, for his absenteeism. "Paramour" is in quotes because Annie and Francisco spend most of the novel apart, on two different continents. Their affair begins steamily in 1980 but except for a skyped sexual release at a time of tremendous crisis in Annie's life, there is not that much actual physical contact between Annie and Francisco. And yet their relationship is one for the books, one of the most sexually platonic relationships in history. You'd have to go back to the legendary and star-crossed lovers Abelard and Heloise or to A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" to find an epistolary romance that has the engaging power of the one detailed over three decades in "This Nearly Was Mine." It's a wonderful summer read, a wry and absorbing tale that redefines with originality and a hard-won wisdom, the meaning of lust, love, fidelity, friendship, family, marriage and all those blessings and curveballs which life throws our way.