So Easy to Love. J.A. Pak. 2012. Eden Street Press. 158 pages. [Source: Personal Copy]
So Easy to Love is a novella from J.A. Pak, and it really wasn’t what I was expecting. I suppose I expected this to be a simple, run of the mill novella that told a trite story of a messy dalliance between colleagues. It definitely wasn’t that, and I’m glad.
It’s actually the story of a young woman, Susanna, and her various relationships among family, friends, and coworkers. The relationships are murky and overlap often, in some cases with no clear resolution to hovering questions. I think that’s what kept me most invested in the book — seeing the evolution of her relationships with others as well as the development of her self-awareness was exciting to watch. I started the book thinking she was meek and helpless, but toward the end of the book I began to see her as someone who took hold of her life as best she could.
The writing style is different from what I normally come across. It’s still prose, but the “chapters” vary in length from a handful of sentences to several pages. Many of the chapters are titled after films and use them as a lens to reflect on the narrator and her friends’ experiences. I found that a bit refreshing. The topics jump around, but there’s a subtle continuity about the story. The best comparison I can draw is that it feels like you’re reading Susanna’s diary; at times it’s easy-going but at times you can feel the turmoil she’s experiencing as a result of the people around her.
I was intrigued by the style and approach of the author and felt compelled to do some research. I’ve pulled this quote from the author’s blog (J.A. Pak: The Writing Blog), which (obviously) gives some great insight into the overall mood of the book:
So Easy To Love began as a diversion. It was summer and I thought it’d be fun to write a typical summer romance. But in writing it, I began to discover that it’s fairly impossible to shake off who I am. Fun and breezy became lost in thoughtful and contemplative. That is, the fun romance novel became a reflection on love and films, the fun turning into heartfelt sadness. Thus, the reason why I dedicated the novella to all those with a broken heart.
This is a relatively short read, but it’s entirely engaging. There’s no “happy ending,” per se, but I can’t say I really expected one at all. The characters, their circumstances, and their responses are entirely realistic. This is absolutely worth a read (or two. I get the feeling I’ll “catch” more things on a second read).