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Jennifer Weiner's talent shines like never before in this collection of short stories, following the tender, and often hilarious, progress of love and relationships over the course of a lifetime. From a teenager coming to terms with her father's disappearance to a widow accepting two young women into her home, Weiner's eleven stories explore those transformative moments in our every day.
We meet Marlie Davidow, home alone with her new baby late one Friday night, when she wanders onto her ex's online wedding registry and wonders what if she had wound up with the guy not taken. We stumble on Good in Bed's Bruce Guberman, liquored-up and ready for anything on the night of his best friend's bachelor party, until stealing his girlfriend's tiny rat terrier becomes more complicated than he'd planned. We find Jessica Norton listing her beloved New York City apartment in the hope of winning her broker's heart. And we follow an unlikely friendship between two very different new mothers, and the choices that bring them together -- and pull them apart.
The Guy Not Taken demonstrates Weiner's amazing ability to create characters who "feel like they could be your best friend" (Janet Maslin) and to find hope and humor, longing and love in the hidden corners of our common experiences.
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Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of nine books, including Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, which was made into a major motion picture, and Fly Away Home. A graduate of Princeton University, Jennifer is also the co-creator and executive producer for the ABC Family show State of Georgia. To learn more, visit www.jenniferweiner.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Marlie Davidow was not the kind of woman who went looking for trouble. But one Friday night in September, thanks to her own curiosity and the wonders of the Internet, trouble found her.
Her brother Jason and his bride-to-be were registered on WeddingWishes.com. Marlie, housebound with a six-month-old, did all her shopping online, sitting on the beige slipcovered couch where she spent most of her time nursing her baby, or rocking her baby, or trying to get her baby to stop crying. So, on that fateful Friday night after Zeke had finally succumbed to sleep, she wiped the fermented pureed pears off her shirt, set her laptop on the sofa's arm, and pointed and clicked her way through the purchase of a two-hundred-dollar knife set. As she hit "complete order," she wondered about the propriety and potential bad mojo of sending the happy couple knives for their wedding. Too late, she thought, and rubbed her eyes. It was nine o'clock -- a time, prebaby, when a night might just be getting started -- but Drew was still at work, and she was as whipped as if she'd run a marathon.
Just for the hell of it, Marlie typed in her name and reviewed her own choices, feeling wistful as she remembered compiling her wedding registry. She and Drew had made outings of it, having leisurely brunches before driving out to the Macy's in the Paramus Mall to spend hours looking at china and crystal, silver martini shakers and hand-blown margarita glasses from Mexico.
Two years and three months after their wedding, the crystal and the silverware were still in their original boxes in her mother's basement, awaiting the day when she and Drew would move out of their one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side and into a place with a dining room, or at least a little more storage space. The fancy china had been pulled out twice, which corresponded to the number of home-cooked meals Marlie had made since she'd left her job as publicity director for a small theater company in Chelsea to stay home after Zeke was born.
The telephone rang. Marlie picked it up and looked at the caller ID. WebWorx. Which meant Drew. Who was probably calling to say he'd be even later than usual. She nudged the phone under a couch cushion and then, prodded by an impulse she didn't pause to analyze, turned back to her laptop, typed the words Bob Morrison into the "bride/groom" blank, and hit Enter before she could lose her nerve.
Nothing, she thought, as a little hourglass popped up on the screen. Over the last four years, on and off, she'd looked for Bob online, idly typing his name into one search engine or another during down times at work. She never found anything except the same stale handful of links: Bob's name listed as among the finishers in a 5K race he'd run in college; Bob mentioned as one of the survivors in his grandfather's obituary; Bob and a bunch of other graduates of a summer art institute in Long Island. Besides, if Bob ever got married, Marlie figured she'd feel it at some kind of organic, cellular level. After all the time they'd lived together, not to mention all the times they'd slept together, she'd just know.
one couple matches your results, popped onto the screen. bob morrison and karen kravitz. manhasset, new york.
Marlie jerked her head back from the computer as if a hand had reached out and slapped her. Bob Morrison. Manhasset. That's my Bob, she thought, and then she shook her head sharply, because Bob wasn't hers anymore. They'd broken up four years ago. Then she'd met Drew, and now she was married; she was Mrs. Drew Davidow, mother of one, and Bob wasn't hers anymore.
click to view registry, invited the text at the top of the page. Marlie clicked, and scrolled through the registry, her slack jaw and wide eyes bathed in the blue glow of the screen until her husband came home, looking wan and weary, and set his briefcase down next to the diaper bag. "Are you okay?" he asked. She'd blinked at him groggily and started to climb off the couch. The baby was crying again.
"No, don't worry, I got it." He managed a smile and headed toward the portioned-off part of their bedroom where Zeke slept. "Hey, little man," she heard him say. She managed to get herself off the couch and staggered toward the bedroom. I'll just rest for a minute, she thought as her head hit the pillow. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again it was three in the morning. Drew was on the couch, with Zeke resting on his chest, just starting to open his eyes. Marlie unfastened her nursing bra, adjusted Zeke's weight in her arms, and eventually, the three of them fell asleep on the sofa, together.
"He's marrying a woman who registered for a Health-O-Meter food scale," Marlie reported to her best friend Gwen on Monday, over an early lunch at their favorite Midtown sushi place. Gwen, who'd been Marlie's friend in college and first roommate in New York, had gotten married at twenty-five and pregnant at twenty-seven, and had gone back to work in advertising when her daughter started nursery school. That day she wore high-heeled boots, fitted jeans, and a smart tweed jacket with ruffled cuffs, complemented by a gorgeous red patent-leather bag. Marlie carried a nylon diaper bag and wore maternity jeans. She'd never been a skinny girl to start with, and she was having trouble shedding the last fifteen (eighteen, actually) pounds of baby weight, which seemed to have settled themselves quite happily on her hips.
Gwen raised her eyebrows. "And we know this because..."
Marlie gave her the condensed version of the story while pushing Zeke's stroller back and forth with her sneakered foot: she'd been buying her brother a present, just decided to plug in Bob's name...
Gwen's saucer-shaped hazel eyes widened, but her voice was calm as she said, "Just decided to?"
Marlie's cheeks flushed. "Well, I was curious, I guess. And that's not the point. The point is that he's marrying the un-me! The anti-me!" She pushed the stroller so hard that it bumped into the table, spilling green tea onto Gwen's plate and into her lap. "Oh, God. I'm sorry!"
"No worries," Gwen said too quickly, as she tried to mop up the mess while keeping her cuffs dry. "It's just tea. So the un-me thing. You're basing it just on the food scale?"
"What kind of woman registers for a food scale?" Marlie asked.
"A woman who's concerned about portion size, I guess."
"A skinny bitch," Marlie muttered, handing her friend her napkin. "And if you're the person who gives them the food scale, what do you say on the card? 'Best wishes for a happy life together, PS, don't get fat?'"
"You could just go with 'congratulations,'" Gwen said.
"It wasn't just the food scale," said Marlie. "There was a plastic chip-and-dip set. Tack-ay. And beige china. Beige!" She shook her head, feeling her heart pounding, realizing she was angrier about this than she'd previously suspected. "Beige. Bor-ing." Yeah, she thought bitterly. Like she was leading such an exciting life. Her idea of culture these days was watching more than twenty minutes of uninterrupted Oprah.
Gwen set her chopsticks down. "Okay. Listen to me. We are not going down the Bob Morrison road again."
"What are you talking about?"
"The obsession. The agonizing. The dialing while drunk."
"I only did that once," Marlie protested. Gwen's cuffs were dripping. Marlie pulled a Pamper out of her diaper bag and handed it to her friend.
"The drive-bys," Gwen continued relentlessly, pointing a chopstick for emphasis.
"It can't technically be a drive-by if you walk," Marlie said. "And, listen, Gwen, what if he was the one I was supposed to be with? What if..." She took a bite of dynamite roll, poured more tea, and popped a few edamame our of their shells. When she looked up, Gwen was still waiting, head tilted, eyes wide. She sighed, and said, reluctantly, "What if he was the one?"
Gwen looked taken aback, as if she'd never questioned her commitment to her own husband. She probably hadn't, Marlie thought. It was probably easy not to when your husband was tall, handsome, completely agreeable, besotted with you, and looked like a taller, not-crazy Tom Cruise. "Well, for starters, you married someone else and had a baby with him," Gwen said.
Marlie sighed. There was that. Gwen set her chopsticks down on her plate and looked at her friend intently. "Marlie," she said. "This is what you wanted. You wanted Drew, you wanted a baby, you wanted to stop working. Remember?"
Marlie nodded. She could remember, all too vividly, sitting across from her friend in this very restaurant, bouncing Gwen's daughter Ginger on her knee and avowing her desire for those very things. But Ginger had been an adorably pudgy baby who'd grown into an adorable little girl, with a collection of Little Mermaid purses and after-school ballet lessons, and Gwen, with her clean house and her nanny and her happy, accommodating husband, made it all look easy. Had Gwen's first six months of motherhood been this awful? If they were, Marlie wondered, would her friend have told her?
"I know things aren't great right now," Gwen said. "Marriages go through rough times."
"Did yours?" she asked.
Gwen shrugged. "Well, sure. Remember that fight we had about whether to take his mom on vacation with us?"
Marlie nodded, even though, as best as she could remember, that fight had ended after a day, when Paul had simply agreed to tack on the cost of another casita to their stay in Scottsdale. As for Marlie, she had thought, once or twice, late at night when she was so tired it was a struggle to get her limbs to obey her, that recent events in her marriage had transcended the boundaries of "rough time" and were edging toward "the whole thing was a mistake." Drew and his partners were in the process of launching WebWorx. Her husband left their apartment before eight in the morning and rarely got home before nine o'clock at night, and she couldn't fairly complain about it, because he was the only one bringing home a paycheck. She'd just never expected that caring for a newborn would leave her feeling so exhausted, so edgy and desperate for adult human contact beyond the ten minutes of conversation D...
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