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Instant Love: Fiction [Hardcover]

Jami Attenberg

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Book Description

June 13 2006
“We are all walking around this city with our hearts sadly swimming in our chests, like dying fish on the surface of a still pond. It’s enough to make you give up entirely.” —from Instant Love


But we don’t give up. We keep trying. We’re either too stupid to learn from our mistakes or we honestly believe that the next time will be different; it’s hard to say which. Driven by the mad hopefulness that is part of the human condition, we are constantly falling in and out of love with a slightly different version of the person who came before. Jami Attenberg chronicles those exact moments with heartbreaking realism in her powerful debut, Instant Love.

Told through the eyes of three young women and their friends and lovers, Instant Love explores what it means to be in love, what it means to be lonely, and what it means to be both at the same time. Holly turns to computer dating to find love even as she thinks wistfully of a former boyfriend who loved her well and fed her ice cream. Maggie recounts the story of her one crazy summer to her disbelieving husband and feels the distance between them grow wider than the void across their king-sized bed. And Sarah Lee remembers the one who got away and the one she ran away from, all the while moving toward the one she can actually love.

As Holly, Maggie, and Sarah Lee move through the rituals of modern love, they have to decide who is worth taking a chance on in a world where things don’t fall into place easily, people are often difficult, and disappointment is the rule. Through their stories, Attenberg presents a rare, honest look at love.


Also available as an eBook.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books (June 13 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307337820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307337825
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 15 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,634,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Attenberg's first novel focuses on the precise moments at which a handful of women fall in love, out of love and back in again: spontaneous Holly; her grounded big sister, Maggie; shy artist Sarah Lee; and a gaggle of their cohorts. Beginning with Holly, 17 years old and working after school at a pharmacy, the novel leapfrogs in time and place, taking us from Holly's crush on her co-worker Shelly's makeup to Maggie's lackluster date with her future husband, Robert, and Sarah Lee's aggravated attempts to overcome her stutter and make a human connection in New York City. Unfolding through several points of view, sometimes to disorienting effect, chapters are broken into short but detailed scenes, yielding a brutally honest story of human relationships that brings together several plot lines. Written in a sparse style that puts Attenberg's background as a journalist to strong use, this funny, perceptive debut earns its hopeful if uncertain ending, giving wisdom to a sentiment as saccharine as one character's belief "that we are the sum of all of the loves before us until we reach our one great love." (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Alternating between the cliché and the brilliantly candid, Attenberg scrutinizes humankinds deepest sentiment through the romantic ups and downs of Sara, Holly, Maggie, and Melanie–seen in girlhood and into womanhood–as each of theses quirky characters searches for a happy ending. Their stories are as much about love lost, unrecognized, or distorted as love found. The self-contained vignettes gradually overlap. Some were published earlier and are now woven together through the interactions of the main characters and their friends in common. Readers feel the loneliness and risks involved when looking for love. It is by no means instant and is often fleeting as each individual ponders that moment when everything changes in a relationship. This honest portrayal will be disorienting for some teens and reassuring to others.–Brigeen Radoicich, Fresno County Office of Education, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "There's too much agitation over words in our lives." June 13 2006
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In edgy and insightful prose, Attenberg manages to be brutally honest and entertaining, her characters defined by the human imperfections that spring to life when dreams are thwarted, no matter how unrealistic those dreams may be. With persistent precision, the author pulls her protagonists' lives apart like fragile butterfly wings, exposing the soft underbellies of disappointed youth and the harsh reality of adulthood, the defense mechanisms that become more practiced with age and experience.

Maggie marries predictable Robert because he is thoughtful, or so she believes when first they meet. His more than adequate salary provides everything she needs; Maggie becomes adept at hiding her real self, tucking it deep inside while she smiles at her husband approvingly, sporting her massive diamond wedding set. When she finally shares some of her thoughts with Robert, he is appalled, unbelieving and judgmental, just as she has expected, but Maggie is coming of age. Holly, Maggie's older sister, is single more by accident than intent, spending hours perusing dating sites on the internet, enjoying the clever fictions of the posts, the small lies and ingenious remarks that turn frog into prince. These online Lotharios are always a disappointment in person, a cross between very lonely guys and emotional cripples. Holly's first boyfriend, her first love, seems so very long ago.

Sarah Lee has been waiting all her life, always on the outside looking in, hyper-aware that everyone has someone but her, ever since the one who got away. She savors the perfection of the moment, knowing that once the bite is taken from the apple, it will never be so sweet again. She prepares for that moment, waiting for her chance at love, her small but precious taste of the forbidden fruit.

The protagonists are further defined by the peripheral characters in their lives, the odd acquaintances and ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands, girlfriends, Holly and Maggie's famous writer-father, grasping at youth and notoriety as the years encroach, his children as distant as the old photographs carefully placed on bedside tables in their unused rooms. Time passes inexorably by, lovers missing each other on the way to romantic trysts and one-night stands, anxious to seal the deal. With acute perception, Attenberg delves below the brittle surface of what looks like love, probing the deepest yearnings, hopes and doubts of her characters. Luan Gaines/ 2006.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instantly loved it. June 29 2006
By Janice Erlbaum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This collection of interconnected stories about love and relationships is stunning in every way -- artful, honest, funny, terrible, and very real. From the etiquette of ordering sex buddies off the internet, to the compromise of loving a decent man who bores you, INSTANT LOVE explores facets of love both post-modern and eternal. Like Lorrie Moore or Curtis Sittenfeld, Attenberg has a knack for nailing a heretofore un-nailed emotional moment, gesture, or bit of dialogue, whether spoken or just thought; she shines a light on the smallest details so that every scene is a fresh revelation. This book made me smirk, it made me sad; it made me think about all my past relationships and made me grateful for my current one. Great job. Can't wait for the next one!
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It's just like________when he was listening to _________ July 13 2007
By M. A. Rodriguez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you are thinking of reading this book, I have some advice that could save you some time and money:
1. Drive to the affluent suburbs or a medium size midwestern city
2. Steal the diary of a 16 old girl who thinks of herself as "mature"
3. Omit the interesting parts
4. Insert references to indie-rock bands, subconsciously aligning the writing with "underground" music and culture, replacing the need to create a tome or voice of your own by leaning on the work and credibility of others (See also: High Fidelity) This is a great way to "cast" the feel of your book. Like instead of describing the appearance or mannerisms of a character just say "he looked like CELEBRITY NAME and was shouting like in POPULAR FILM. It removes the need for almost all prose.
5. Read the same week of the diary multiple times, changing the scenario ever so slightly.

Ta-Da!

It might be extra work, but it will at least be more fun and original.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instantly... March 26 2007
By Christina Ramos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I felt that someone has created "chick lit" that is meaty, it has heart, soul and tells it like it is, sister! So un chick lit like really. But it still "got me" how chick lit can do.

Jami so poignantly depicts the modern woman's cry: "where is he? I've been dating since I was sixteen!" Not to quote Charlotte from Sex and the City but I did, so there. What I love about this book is the normalcy of these girls that blossom into women. We all know them...we may be one and thus we can relate and cheer them on when they stab the prevert in the leg for being a typical man.

She captures my junior high moments so well in "The Perfect Triangle," in which we all feel incredibly akward because we like a boy and figure that make-up is the way to his heart just to have your friend take away his attention. I love how she weaves marriage into a cliche. She wanted a big ring. She got it. She regretted it later, like most women in San Francisco who were just after the Starbucks latte in one hand, Gap hat on, stroller in hand, decorated with the De Beers 3 karat or Tiffany's rock.

Thank you Jami for creating something that I've never read but is akin to Julie Orringer's collection of short stories.

I so enjoyed it!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Would give in no stars if I could. Jan. 8 2008
By B. Williamson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read many books, and this was one of the few that I was unable to finish. The characters and story line did not flow well, and I could not make any sense of it. A waste of time and paper.

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