|Don’t let Anna Maxted get lost in the current glut of Chick Lit authors from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. She understands why people behave irrationally and she’s not afraid to explore difficult topics, but she’s still funny. Her writing is also slightly less cynical and more optimistic than many of her fellow genre authors. Being Committed, her fourth novel, is another strong effort, following on the heels of the thought-provoking yet romantic Behaving Like Adults.
Men aren’t the only ones who can suffer from fear of commitment. Hannah Lovekin is very content to continue dating her long-time boyfriend Jason without taking it to the next level. She has a moderately satisfying and successful career as a private investigator, she is fortunate to have a great relationship with her father, and she enjoys her independence. When Jason surprises her with a marriage proposal during a romantic weekend getaway, Hannah turns him down flat.
A month later, Hannah is appalled to learn that Jason has moved on and become engaged to his neighbor Lucy. Maybe she rejected him a little too hastily. But when Hannah asks Jason to take her back, she winds up in a couples therapy session accused of being afraid of intimacy. Jason thinks that Hannah’s problems date back to her short-lived marriage, ten years ago, and he insists that Hannah seek out her ex-husband Jack to put some closure on their relationship. As Hannah gamely does her best to be a better girlfriend than she was before, she realizes that her intimacy problems started long before Jack. And once the scales start to fall from her eyes about the root of her issues, she realizes she also has a right to think about what she needs from her relationships.
Hannah is a tough, no-nonsense heroine who starts out the book more comfortable discussing the inner motivations of the characters on TV dramas than those belonging to herself or her loved ones. “Supposedly it was the holy grail of therapy to access and express your emotions, the point at which you became an adult,” she muses. “How, when sharing your hurt and anger is such an enormous bore and inconvenience to those around you?” She’s not self-centered and callous as much as closed off. But her growth comes at the expense of a great deal of pain, and forces her to examine why she is so close to her father and so disdainful of her mother. The issue of parenting – what makes a good parent, when does a parent go too far – is also echoed in Hannah’s relationship with her sister-in-law Gabrielle, who has worn herself out trying to be the perfect mother to her toddler son. Even her job is seen in a new light; as Hannah delves more closely into her own feelings, she starts to question the ethics of spying on other people’s intimate lives.
There’s humor to be found in Hannah’s total ignorance of fashion (she calls Gab’s fashionable footwear Jimmy Shoes) but only a talented author like Maxted could take a throwaway slapstick scene such as Hannah’s mother trying to teach the domestically-challenged daughter how to cook for Jason and turn it into a masterly combination of poignancy and laughs.
The last hundred pages of the book drag a bit, and I was not convinced that Hannah and her Mr. Right had solved all of the issues they needed to move ahead towards that happy ending, although Hannah assures the reader she knows what she needs to fight for now. Maxted, at her best, writes books that are every bit as satisfying as those penned by the better-known Marian Keyes. My recommendation is that you commit yourself to Being Committed – you’ll laugh, you’ll think and you will not be disappointed.