Saturday, March 11, 2006

My Life as a Doormat, by Rene Gutteridge

We have all met the doormat type. These people avoid conflict like the plague, and 34-year-old struggling playwright Leah Townsend is no exception. She always lets her boyfriend order for her when out to dinner. Never would she tell her former senator father that she is a republican. Her mother is overbearing and her best friend needs advice, but no reply from Leah will rock the relationship boat. Even the main character of her play bullies her into submission. What she doesn’t know is that trying to make everyone happy just makes everyone unhappy, especially herself.

Leah has dated straight-laced Edward for two years, and although she longs for some spontaneity, she dare not tell him so. When she wears a color other than her regular black to a party they attend, he seems embarrassed, but she refuses to confront him about it. Edward decides she needs help, so he sends her to an all-expense-paid conflict resolution class. This, of course, is the worst thing imaginable to Leah, but she agrees so as not to make waves.

She grows more and more uncomfortable among the annoying attendees, who either bicker and fight or cower in fear. All the while, Leah’s trademark red splotches creep up her neck, threatening to take over her entire head. But will she understand herself better through the process? What kind of friendships will she strike up in such an unlikely place?

And what of her manuscript? Her play is going nowhere, and her agent lets her know in concise terms that this will be the end of her career unless she turns out a successful play.

A wide range of supporting characters weave their way through Leah’s life, each one bringing about different feelings within her. Will she learn to speak up for herself and state her opinion without being rude or breaking into a cold sweat?

I rarely cackle while immersed in a book, but this story had me doing it with startling frequency. My response alternated between laughing at or feeling deep concern for dear Leah throughout the book.

On the serious side, it takes extreme circumstances in our lives to highlight our character flaws. There is a point where we must decide to change because we can’t stay the same anymore. All of us must experience this at some point, but it was nice to see it happen to someone else via compelling and comical fiction.

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