Anyone But You ~ Jennifer Crusie

  • Title: Anyone But You
  • Author: Jennifer Crusie
  • Genre: Contemporary romance
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: Olga Godim
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  For Nina Askew, turning forty means freedom–freedom from the ex-husband, freedom from their stuffy suburban home, freedom to focus on what she wants for a change. And what she wants is something her ex always vetoed–a puppy. A bouncy, adorable puppy. Instead she gets… Fred.

Overweight, middle-aged, a bit smelly and obviously depressed, Fred is light-years from perky. But he does manage to put Nina in the path of Alex Moore, her gorgeous, younger-by-a-decade neighbor.

Alex seems perfect–he’s a sexy, seemingly sane, surprisingly single E.R. doctor–but the age gap convinces Nina that anyone but Alex would be better relationship material. But with every silver-haired stiff she dates, she is more and more convinced it’s the young, dog-loving doc she wants to sit and stay.

Guaranteed to improve your mood, inflict snickers, and induce guffaws.  According to the author, this is the Fred’s book, and she is right.

Who is Fred? He is a dog – half beagle, half basset, all depressive. Unless he can play with Nina’s red lace Incredibra. You guessed right – it’s her underwear and Fred’s favorite toy.

Who is Nina? She is the heroine of the novel, a forty-year-old woman. The story follows her budding love affair with her downstairs neighbor Alex. Unfortunately, he is 10 years younger than her and gorgeous into the bargain. Fortunately, he is falling in love with her too.

The novel seems like a screwball comedy, pathetic and desperate at first glance, but its underlying romance is serious and poignant, and the emotions it invokes are real. Nina resists her love for Alex because of the 10-year difference. She is 40, everything is sagging, and she is becoming ashamed of her body. Every woman over 35 would empathize with her.

He doesn’t make advances because he thinks she considers him a kid, doesn’t take him seriously, and he is afraid of losing her.

Despite their mutual reservations, they’re drawn towards each other by lust and affection. They watch movies together, laugh together, enjoy Fred’s antics together. Love grows, organic and inevitable, and the fantastic Crusie dialog embroiders the tale with the author’s subtle sense of humor and short repartees. So much is left out of the words in any banter between Nina and Alex, a lesser writer might’ve written a much longer book.

She followed him to the window and watched with him as Fred waddled down two flights of stairs to the backyard where he promptly watered the Dumpster.
“Smart dog.” Alex quirked an eyebrow at Nina. “Did you teach him to do that?”
“I taught him the stairs,” Nina said. “He already knew how to lift his leg.”
“Smart woman,” Alex said, smiling into her eyes.

The characters are alive and breathing. You might disagree with them, but you can’t doubt their depth, their desires, or their inner contradictions, so ingrained in the human race. Only Fred is free of contradictions, as only a dog could be. He is the star, the most hilarious character of this book – a dog with a personality. He enriches every page and shamelessly steals the spotlight from Nina and Alex.

The writing is sparse and utterly funny, showcasing the author’s unerring touch of the ridiculous. For example, here Fred struggles with a couch:

Fred began to move again, and Nina felt the tension ease out of her shoulders as she watched the miscellaneous collection of independent canine parts that was Fred move past her on his way to the couch. “I always wanted a dog. And now I have Fred.”
Fred sniffed the couch again. He’s sniffed it several times since he’d arrived, but now he made a decision. His haunches quivered and tensed as he crouched, and then with a mighty leap he flung himself onto the overstuffed cushions, hanging there for a long moment, a triumph of hope over biology, only to slide slowly back to the floor and land with a soft thud as his butt failed to achieve lift-off.
He took it pretty well, considering.

In another scene, too long to quote here, Fred stole Nina’s Incredibra. That scene is a treat to any first-time reader, and although this is my third reread of this book, I still laughed myself silly.

A great read.