We like to have fun at my branch. For instance, when we found out a coworker hates Tori Spelling, we ordered him a ton of her books. Sometimes we’ll just put a book aside if we think the cover is funny. When Nookietown by V.C. Chickering was returned at our branch, a coworker put it on my shelf, thinking I’d get a kick out of the cover.
Laughing, I decided to read the inside cover:
Recently divorced forty-something single mom Lucy is lonely, a little antsy, and craving physical connection. Then the unthinkable happens: Her trusted, long-married friend Nancy begs Lucy to sleep with her husband … to save her marriage. The plan is outlandish, scandalous, and, to everyone’s astonishment, works like a charm—it’s a win-win-win. Soon the two women develop an underground barter system whereby Nancy’s local married friends subcontract Lucy’s horny divorcée friends to sleep with their sex-starved husbands so the wives don’t have to as often. It’s a foolproof system for a while. Until feelings get hurt, loyalties are tested, and boundaries are crossed.
Warning: There’s a lot of sex in Nookietown. If you’re a time-travelling Puritan or you’re on the Internet for the first time for Rumspringa, skip to the end to see a video of how to wrap a cat for Christmas.
My interests resoundingly piqued from the synopsis, I read and enjoyed Chickering’s debut novel a lot more than I expected. With a sex scene just about every ten pages, Nookietown often skews toward camp, but that only adds to the charm of the novel. Some scenes and dialogue wouldn’t feel out of place in a Russ Meyer film. One of Lucy’s friends recounts her sexual conquest with a UPS worker—including all the eye-rolling “package size” innuendos you can think of. One friend is referred to as “Miss Boobs-the-Size-of-Rhode-Island.” At a sex-toy party, dildos are compared to Greek obelisks. There’s a scene involving a turkey baster and condom filled with spent sperm. Lucy even acknowledges the “campy-funny” nature of a scene as she’s throwing shoes at one of her friends in a Target.
Camp aside, these divorced women are very much in control of their sex lives and the wives call the shots when it’s time for the divorcées to bed their husbands. If I were a woman (I’m not; I just checked), I’d consider this an empowering novel. Chronically-horny Lucy even says that all the newly found sex makes her feel “informed and powerful.” I don’t think Chickering was trying to solve marriage with Nookietown, but she definitely illuminates some common problems with marriage as an institution. Then again, I had some terrific wedding soup for lunch the other day, so I’m not prepared to Google divorce rates or infidelity or anything like that.
There were some things that didn’t work for me. Lucy, constantly second-guessing her choices, comes across as wishy-washy. On at least three separate occasions with near-identical wording, she remarks that when a man says he’s sarcastic in an online dating profile what he really means is he’s a “verbally abusive bully.” Speaking of online dating, there’s a scene where Lucy is a little drunk on tequila and goes through all the profiles of the men who have sent her messages and completely berates them to herself for their grammatical errors or for posing without a shirt (“It’s not that we aren’t intrigued by your comely physique; we just want to be assured that you own a shirt.”). While Lucy’s concerns are legitimate, it’s a scene that goes on for way too long.
Even though some things didn’t work for me, it’s not like the book was ruined. I needed a lighthearted break after reading S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and I enjoy reading outside my comfort zone so this book was perfect. Often funny and sometimes heartfelt, sexy and nerdy (references to Mel Brooks and the Coen Brothers abound) with just the right amount of smut, Nookietown is the kind of novel I’d have loved as a teenager and enjoyed as an adult, despite not being the novel’s intended audience.
Now, welcome back, time-traveling friends! Here’s that video I promised:
Have you read Nookietown? How did you figure out time travel? Let me know in the comments below!