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REVIEW: The List by Tara Ison

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9414-0
Publisher: Scribner (2007)
Paperback: 272 pages

When it comes to matters of the heart, there's always a story to tell. And when it comes to ambivalent relationships, the mysterious element that keeps bringing together two individuals who obviously weren't made for each other makes for an intriguing read. In The List, Tara Ison attempts to analyse such a relationship.

The novel is about hearts, both literally and figuratively. Isabel is a promising medical student, just about to graduate and become a heart surgeon. While she deals with her life in a very practical way (as is befitting a med student), her on-and-off again boyfriend, Al, prefers to let life pass by with as little effort as possible. Al used to be a promising film director, and even made a movie that went on to achieve cult status. But then he loses confidence and ends up working as a clerk in a video rental store. In short, he becomes a slacker and somewhat of a loser.

So with both of them at extremely opposite poles, it's obvious that they're often at each other's necks. And so they break up. Yet, something always pulls them together again. And the cycle continues. The repeated breakups strain each other and their friends, so Isabel suggests they do a list. Each will chose 5 items they have always wanted to do together but never had the chance. After completing these 10 items, they will break up amicably and remain friends. Isabel hopes that this will provide closure for both of them so they won't repeat the ridiculous cycle again. As is usual with such things, things don't go as planned, and spiral out of control.

While I find Tara Ison a good writer, I wonder if she would be more at home at script writing. There's a scene in the book, told from Al's "director" point-of-view, and it is written in script format. I particularly enjoyed that scene more than the rest of the book. I have to admit, it took me a while to get into the "spirit" of the book. The List starts out slow, and from the perspective of Isabel. Her character did little to make me like her but she did grow on me later on. Al's a little more lovable, but he's a typical jerk-slacker type, so he's not much better. The book starts to shine when they reach near the end of the list and Al starts to find ways to make Isabel stay around him longer.

Anyways, if you're interested, visit Tara Ison's website or you can view the trailer for the book:

I would also like to express gratitude to Wendy Ortiz who took the trouble to send me an uncorrected proof.


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