Deena Goldstone's novel Surprise Me was a pleasant, wonderful surprise. Usually I am racing through books in the summer, but I've been busy with things at home, which means that I've read this one over a span of a few days, and have had time to enjoy every page.
Isabelle Rothman is a senior in college when she begins to write and works with a professor, Daniel Jablonski, who has a less than stellar reputation. Their brief encounters allow Isabelle to feel as though she is a writer, and then all too soon she has graduated and moved on to a life of her own.
Years pass. Isabelle falls in love, has a child and begins to work at a bookstore, but she no longer writes. Daniel changes jobs a few time, eventually settling in a small cottage near his daughter, Alina, who is still angry and bitter at her father for leaving her as a young child.
Daniel and Isabelle correspond infrequently by email, but they continue to have a deep connection to one another.
I originally thought this was a love story between Daniel and Isabelle, and it is, but not the way I originally thought. These two people are connected through their writing, yet much of their lives are spent apart.
Goldstone's writing is perfect. I felt connected to both Isabelle and Daniel and appreciated their flaws and how human she was able to make them. Their relationship was complex, not easily defined, and changed over time as they grew and changed themselves. I loved seeing both of these characters' lives unfold.
This is a debut novel for Goldstone, although she is not new to writing, having published a short story collection, Tell Me One Thing, previously. I wish this novel was getting more attention because I absolutely loved it, and am hoping to hear more from Deena Goldstone.