Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday* of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it. (*Except this month … I’m running a little late with August’s book. Which just means double the fun in September!)
Up for reading and pairing in August was Bethany Chase’s RESULTS MAY VARY (which, by the way, might have one of my favorite covers ever). The story opens with the main character Caroline discovering that her husband is having an affair with a man. And when I say husband, know that I mean high-school sweetheart turned husband, with whom she has spent the overwhelming majority of her life– so obviously her world is completely turned upside down. The novel chronicles Caroline’s attempts to make sense of the betrayal and learn how to move forward. The book totally lives up to it’s amazing cover (not that I was judging it by that, at all, in any way).
Here’s what I loved about the book:
The messy fumbling around. There were times when I caught myself physically wincing at Caroline’s choices– knowing that things weren’t going to end well or that she was going to regret that thing she just did or said. And yet, while sitting there wincing, I could also acknowledge the complete reality of it all. Big, huge, emotional life events bring all these swirls of emotions that tend to spew out haphazardly and unpredictably. Chase did an amazing job of capturing that on the page. In fact, there’s this one scene involving paint samples that quite literally captures this idea of swirling, spattering, raging messiness. So well done.
The gritty prose. And as I type that phrase I think ughhh, what does that even mean. I feel like I’m buying into a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot these days. (For example the neighborhood I live in has been characterized as gritty. Your guess is as good as mine as to what exactly that means?) And yet when I was trying to think of the right way to describe what I loved about Chase’s writing style, this is the word I kept coming back to. There an honesty and a forthrightness that just works really, really well. I think the place this stood out most to me was in the sex scenes, which weren’t as “behind closed doors” as it seems to me they often are in women’s fiction. I appreciated the blunt honesty, especially in a story all about risk and trust.
The New England, in the fall and winter, setting. I now really want it to snow. Maybe not New England-carve-a-path-through-waist-high-drifts snow, but I really, really want to sit under a snuggly blanket with a glass of wine or mug of tea (or perhaps a beer), by a crackling fire, and watch fluffy white flakes fall. Because apparently the main character Caroline and I have pretty much the exact same happy place. The descriptions of the change of season from summer to fall to winter in a small Massachusetts town are nothing short of gorgeous. All greens and browns and golds, and the purple of tree bark (which is so true, but I never thought about that color with trees).
Other honorable mentions are Caroline’s sister Ruby, her best friend Jonathan, and her co-worker Neil (also, his pancakes). They are those characters in a book that you wish were real so that you could share a pint or two with them at the bar down the street. That’s not just me, is it… everyone wants to drink beer with awesome fictional people, right?
Anyway, while we’re talking beer…. I’m pairing RESULTS MAY VARY with Urban Family Brewing Company’s Death to Cereal Breakfast Stout. This a seriously well-crafted beer with a sense of humor, just like Chase’s book. It’s a breakfast stout, so it’s dark and smells like coffee beans. It’s a little sweet in the middle and then finishes with a nutty flavor. There’s a lot going on in a good way, and it would be the absolute perfect beer for curling up under and blanket and watching it snow. It would also pair well with the above mentioned pancakes by Neil.
If you can’t find Death to Cereal in your neighborhood ask your local bottle shop to add it to their list, but barring that, grab any delicious, boozy stout, a cozy blanket, pretend there are fluffy snowflakes falling outside your window and curl up with RESULTS MAY VARY.
Best. Afternoon. Ever.