• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Harper (April 5, 2016)
A humorous, heartfelt love story built on a tantalizing premise: would you agree to spend two hours a week with a stranger—just talking—to collect half a million dollars at the end of a year?
Struggling Hollywood producer Richard is twenty-nine, hungover, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an easy charm, he spends his days procrastinating at the Coffee Bean and nights hanging out with his best friend, Michaela, aka “Mike.”
At thirty-three, Elizabeth is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina”—the Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to a quiet, orderly life with no romantic entanglements of any kind. (Her closest friend is an old man who discusses Virginia Woolf with her at the beach. Enough said.)
Richard and Elizabeth have never met before, but their paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor: they’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together every week for a year. Both are shocked and suspicious, and agree the idea is absurd, but after Richard anxiously considers the state of his bank account and Elizabeth carefully conducts a cost-benefit analysis of the situation, they agree to give it a try.
As these two perfect strangers wade awkwardly into the waters of modern courtship, discovering a shared affection for In-N-Out burgers, classic books, cult-hit movies, and various Los Angeles locales, they realize that uncovering the secret identity of their benefactor will not only make clear what connects them but change them both forever.
This delightful tale is full of twists, revelations, and above all love in its multitude of forms.
Buy, read, and discuss this book:
Kemper Donovan has lived in Los Angeles for the past twelve years. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he worked at the literary management company Circle of Confusion for a decade, representing screenwriters and comic books. He is also a member of the New York Bar Association.
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I had a difficult time getting into this book, but it was a case of “it’s not you, it’s me,’ so I put it aside for a week or so, and then tried it again, and I found I really enjoyed it. The opening with Richard in his newly empty apartment, and his inner monologue about cancelling Netflix because even the $8.95/month seemed too expensive really reminded me of times in my own life , when Fuzzy and I were newly married and still learning to handle co-mingled finances. I think that kind of financial desperation is something everyone goes through in their twenties, and then we reach our thirties (and beyond) and (hopefully) put that behind us. It was that description that really made me fall into my second attempt at The Decent Proposal and ultimately I really enjoyed the experience.
Elizabeth – La Maquina – I loved from the start. I know what it is to be driven and focused and not always the center of the workplace social buzz, and I found that identified with her more than I thought I would. I loved that she did a cost-benefit analysis of the ‘decent proposal’ she and Richard received. (I’m married to an engineer. He keeps spreadsheets of his characters in iOS games. This is a trait I understand.)
Kemper Donovan’s writing voice is easy and contemporary, which isn’t to imply that this book is overly ‘simple.’ It’s not. It’s a fabulous twist on the classic “mysterious benefactor as matchmaker” trope, with characters that feel like real people and dialogue that snaps and sizzles.
As well, the entire novel is fabulously entertaining and engaging.
Goes well with frou-frou coffee and a pastry at your cafe of choice.
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