There’s something pleasing about fiction that focuses on the premise of a self-help book that actually helps. Or doesn’t. Self-help in action explored in fiction is just a fun and satisfying idea. Will Ferguson’s 2001 novel Happiness(™) (which was first published as Generica) played with this idea most successfully. Someone writes a self-help book that actually works… and the world is changed.
Allison Winn Scotch’s The Theory of Opposites (Camellia Press) is sort of the reverse. The daughter of a bestselling self-help author writes a book that proves her father’s theories wrong. Dad’s book? Is It Really Your Choice? Why Your Entire Life May Be Out of Control. While daughter, Willa, whose perfect life has suddenly come unglued, writes the book that contradicts all of theories her father posited. (And, you guessed it: Willa calls her book The Theory of Opposites.)
If you were to believe my father — and many people do — you would believe that there is no such thing as coincidence. That life is a series of intentional moments that lead us from one of the next, each one ping-ponging us from one destiny to another, all of which carry us on a wave of life up until the inevitable: death.
In a nutshell, my dad is the guy who has more or less eliminated the idea of free will and has instead doomed us all to fate, to that old and ever-present irritating adage: everything happens for a reason. (Air quotes.)
Allison Winn Scotch’s fifth novel is smart, charming and a bit of a romp. If your taste in reading runs to RomCom-style literature (think Jennifer Cruisie, Sophie Kinsella or Jodie Picoult in her less serious moments) you are likely to enjoy this one. ◊
Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.