I picked up the book Long Division: A Novel (also titled ‘Miss Harper Can Do It’) by Jane Berentson years ago. I was doing a mini tour of books of interest in my local book store when I came across this book. I’m not sure what drew me to it but I settled on it found a sit and started reading. I couldn’t put it down, two days in a row I went to the book store to read this book. I was so in to it that I told my self there was no point in buying it and I could just come to the cafe to read (cafe and book store are the same place) but I didn’t and I eventually forgot about the little book.
Fast forward to my technologically enhanced life and I decided to get it on my kindle. The spark, the inability to put the book down, just wasn’t there anymore and so I abandoned it once again. A few nights ago however I opened it back up and read until I finished. Whether it was the spark or pure insomnia I don’t know but I didn’t put it down until I read every word -with the exclusion of the highly unnecessary and slightly irritating footnotes.
The book is about an American woman, Annie, in her mid twenties whose boyfriend David is off in the Iraqi war. Before he leaves they are madly is love, everything is fine, and everyone supports their union. He leaves for war and she finds support from her parents, an old lady in a nursing home (Loretta), a pet chicken, her colleagues and her best friend Gus. She is alone an lonely. Though her life continues she misses him terribly. As time moves on she depends increasingly upon Loretta and Gus. Her love for David begins to dwindle due to their separation, their superficial conversations and her growing feeling the they share little in common. It comes as no surprise that old friend Gus increasingly fills the void. She and David do not last and she moves on to Gus.
The story is told in a way you’d expect a typical young Amrican girl to speak -lots of sarcasm, melodrama and overanalyzing. And that is what makes the book pretty funny. If you’re willing it can also lead to some deeply philosophical questions especially about relationships. When the Gus character first appears on the scenes I tell the character, sometimes out loud, “No, don’t!”. Spending time with someone is an easy trap to making you feel you’re in love with them. Distance can widen the gap between love making you question whether it’s real. Or is it the other way around? Does distance, as the old saying goes, “make the heart grow fonder”? And would you only fall for someone you spend time with if the love is really there? Do you have an obligation to your current relationship no matter how bad or boring it is to try your absolute best before bowing out? An in this situation in particular -Is it ok to leave a man at war?
All these questions and more are provoked in Miss Harper Can Do It, if you’re in the need of and easy going light read this winter I would suggest picking it up. It’s like the typical “chick flick” you know what’s going to happen but if you allow yourself you’ll feel joy and anxiety, hope and dread with the characters every step of the way and you’ll have a good laugh.