Mameve Medwed’s novel, Mail is a funny little book.  Written in 1998, it might technically be an early precursor to the whole chick lit genre that is now prevalent (is this true?  Or am I just making wild claims?).   The story’s heroine is Katinka O’Toole, a 30-something-year-old writer, living in Cambridge, Mass.  She is highly educated, the former wife of lauded Harvard professor, and she’s just trying to make her mark in literary society.  This is particularly difficult when her ex-husband takes full credit for anything she has accomplished thus far, and when her own mother is more concerned with her dating schedule (ONLY with well-connected, highly educated men, of course) than her writing success.  Still, Katinka continues to work, and finds herself more and more attracted to the wrong guy–Louie Cappetti, her mailman.

As Katinka’s family circle broadens and changes, she also meets Jake Barnes, who is, on the surface a predictable, safe, and only mildly attractive lawyer.  As she grows to know these men further, she discovers that Louie gives Katinka the fantasy that she craves, but Jake gives her the mental stimulation and independence that she needs.  Through these romances, Katinka discovers more about who she is, determining where her life needs to head.

Mail by Mameve Medwed

Mail by Mameve Medwed

Truth be told, this probably doesn’t seem like a book that I might have picked up, had I not already read Medwed’s later novel, How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life, which I read a few years ago.  I do really love Medwed’s knack for creating neurotic, likable characters, like Katinka and her suitors.  Beyond that, though, I also love Medwed’s ability to turn Cambridge (my home for 2+ years…) into such an integral part of the story.  Cambridge becomes another character, one that colors the story so well. In other novels, (like The Condition), I haven’t felt the same way, but I think that Medwed’s deft storytelling really helps to make the city come to live.  Its details breathe authenticity, only adding further complexity to the characters and the storyline.

Beyond that, this book is FUNNY!  The literary allusions are smart and there are definitely some situations that made me LAUGH–if not aloud, than at least in my head.

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