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'IF ONLY ... ' | A review Comatose first novel fails to stimulate



Published: Sun, July 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The novel is steeped in melodrama and the dialogue is often unrealistic.

By THERESA HEGEL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

"If Only It Were True," by Marc Levy (Pocket Books, $6.99)

Recently released to paperback, "If Only It Were True" is Marc Levy's first attempt at a novel, and it shows. Though an interesting idea, the novel never lives up to the promise of its inventive premise. The dialogue, in particular, is jarringly unrealistic.

The story opens with Lauren, an overworked, San Francisco-based doctor, embarking on a weekend trip to visit friends in Carmel. En route, the steering system of her vintage convertible Triumph fails.

Melodrama: The resulting accident lands Lauren in the emergency room, but not before some soap-worthy melodrama: a paramedic, taken with Lauren's beauty, doesn't want to let her die, but after excessive use of the defibrillator and other medical paraphernalia, he must declare her dead.

The cops escorting the ersatz corpse to the morgue discover Lauren is still breathing and rush her to the hospital. The doctors determine that Lauren is in a deep coma and has probably suffered high levels of brain damage.

Six months pass.

Lauren's body is still in the hospital, and Arthur, a successful architect, is renting her old apartment. One day, he discovers Lauren huddled in his closet.

After the accident, Lauren's spirit has been separated from her body. She is able to travel anywhere in the vicinity of the hospital simply by wishing herself there.

Arthur is the only person who can see her, and after she convinces him she is not a practical joke or an escaped lunatic, he begins a crusade to awaken her from her coma. In the process, of course, the pair fall in love.

Comic potential: Levy's tale has strong comic potential especially when Arthur converses with Lauren in public.

However, Levy never really develops this, save for some redundant scenes in which people treat Arthur like he is crazy, Lauren warns him about his reputation and Arthur says he doesn't care about it.

The romance between Arthur and Laura is hard to swallow, since neither character seems plausible. This has nothing to do with the supernatural aspects of the plot and everything to do with their unrealistic, idealized dialogue.

For example, Arthur has one lengthy monologue, during which he says, "For the first time the millions of cells in her retinas were stimulated by light, triggering a wonderfully complex chemical reaction that would codify the images imprinted upon them." Does this sound like the casual dinner conversation of a young architect?

In the end, Levy's "If Only It Were True" is lacking. If only the story had lived up to the extravagant promises printed on its back cover.

hegel@vindy.com




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