The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan
advanced readers edition; 320 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780062391629
The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan is a highly recommended light hearted L.A. boy-and-girl-are-paid-to-meet story.
Richard Baumbach and Elizabeth Santiago are strangers who have been
presented with a more than decent proposal through a lawyer representing
an anonymous benefactor. They are being offered five hundred thousand
dollars each if they will meet once a week and spend two hours together,
talking, for one full
calendar year. It is an offer that is legit, with a legal contract,
which they both find hard to refuse.
Richard is a struggling, broke, frequently hungover Hollywood producer
with a large credit card debt to pay off. He's a charming, optimistic,
handsome 29 year old whose best friend is Mike (Michaela). The offer,
what he calls starts calling the #DecentProposal (which Mike reduces to
the DP) on social media will allow him to help finance his production
company and it might provide him with a good plot for a future project.
It could be fun too, an adventure.
Elizabeth, 33, is a serious, driven lawyer on her way to becoming a
partner in the law firm. She is known around her law firm as "La
Máquina" (the Machine) for billable hours and ability to focus on the
task at hand without distraction. She doesn't do social media or TV.
Running the numbers, the proposal will more than compensate her for her
time and allow her to help a homeless man, Orpheus Washington, that she
The two agree to the proposal and first meet at an In-N-Out Burger. It
becomes clear that, while they both might like In-N-Out, they are also
vastly different people whose lives and interests are quite disparate.
If they are to survive 52 weekly two hour meetings comprised of
one-on-one discussions, they need to find some creative plan to help
facilitate it. The ingeniously decide to make it a book and film
discussion club. One week they will read chapters and discuss a classic
book under Elizabeth's guidance and the next week they will watch and
scrutinize a movie of Richard's choice.
The Decent Proposal is satisfying on several levels.
It succeeds as a romantic comedy with elements of a mystery. The writing
is quite good in this debut novel. It flows well and the
plot is well paced and even. The contrast between the two main
characters is well defined and their interaction with each other is
believable. While I'm
not normally known for reading novels described as romantic, The Decent Proposal is a comfortable, comedic, entertaining novel rather than a heavy romantic romp.
It is very clearly set in a current Los Angeles that will be
recognizable to those who know L.A. and its environs. Donovan captures
the culture and life style of those in the entertainment industry. He
contrasts those in the entertainment industry to those who are native
Californians (Elizabeth grew up in South Central) and not transplants
from other parts of the country. In addition, the choice of movies and
books the two discuss is interesting. Don't expect any great literary or
cinematic discussion as a part of the novel, just the titles are
provided as part of the plot. They serve to highlight the many
differences between Richard and Elizabeth.
I had a few minor issues, especially with the ending. It felt a bit
abrupt and awkward compared to the rest of the narrative. But don't let
that stop you from reading The Decent Proposal. This would be a perfect choice for a summer vacation novel. It is light
hearted escapism with some self-discovery and personal growth included
in the parry between characters.
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of
this book from HarperCollins for review purposes.
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