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Where Is He Now?
by Jennifer Greene
(Avon, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-380-81973-2
***
Jeanne Claire Cassiday loved – and lost – her high school boyfriend, Nate Donneli, when he broke off their relationship with a curt note. Now it’s fifteen years later and Jeanne has been asked to co-chair their high-school reunion, something that’s sure to bring her back into contact with Nate. Maybe after all these years, she can find out what really happened.

Since they both live in Ann Arbor, which is not a huge city, one would think they’d have run into one another in the intervening years, but guess not. Nate is now owner of Donneli Motors, his late father’s garage, and he specializes in restoring classic cars – as in Deusenbergs and Bugattis. He’s also a single father to thirteen-year-old Caitlin and the head of household to his younger brothers. Responsibility fell heavily on Nate’s shoulders when he was eighteen, and he felt he had to leave Jeanne behind.

Now Jeanne is back in Nate’s life, and the spark is rekindled. Nate has other problems, however. Money is being skimmed from the company accounts, and he doesn’t know who is responsible, but he suspects one of his brothers. Nate is used to being in charge and taking responsibility for everyone, while Jeanne has been a doormat for her father for too long and wants to make her own way.

I struggled with several aspects of this story. Nate dumped Jeanne when he was in his freshman year of college, because his father died and he had to take over. Yet Jeanne never found out that his father died; fifteen years later, she still doesn’t know. If they were a well-known couple, wouldn’t she have heard about it from someone?

Then there’s the aspect of the story where Nate does what he’s learned to do – take charge – and Jeanne resents it and wants to stand on her own two feet. But they never talk about it. Jeanne makes a few feeble overtures, then decides to avoid Nate because he won’t confide in her. The idea that he might need some help in that department after fifteen years of shouldering his family’s woes never occurs to her – she just sits back and plays the martyr. I really did not find her sympathetic.

This really twists the story. Nate is portrayed as the one who needs to change, but I felt it was Jeanne who needed to do an overhaul. Nate came across as nothing but honorable, caring, and actually pretty self-aware that he had some bossy tendencies. Jeanne simply came across as passive-aggressive. “You won’t confide in me so I’m going to withdraw from you”. It didn’t instill much confidence in their happy-ever-after ending.

There is a side romance involving Jeanne’s friend Tamara, an ex-druggie who had a couple of hit records before bailing out of the music industry, and Arnold, the class nerd who is now a millionaire. Tamara is a free spirit who is terrified at the idea of motherhood and insists nobody can love her. Arnold made his fortune doing who-knows-what and is terrified of being rejected by Tamara the way he was in high school. It was pretty standard stuff.

As for the teenage daughter, she’s one of the precocious types who desperately needs to be told to put a sock in it and stop interrupting people. Nate, of course, can’t deny her anything and doesn’t stand up to her, which leaves her to sound more like a kid off a sitcom than a real person.

Jennifer Greene has an easy style to her books and they’re always effortless reads. Where Is He Now? isn’t a bad book, it’s just unmemorable and strangely lifeless. Die-hard fans will probably enjoy it, but at $6.99, I’d have to recommend one of her other books, instead.

--Cathy Sova


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