Tuesday, December 9, 2014

book review: The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

The backstory: Curtis Sittenfeld may be my favorite writer. She's definitely my soul sister. American Wife, her third novel, is my favorite novel. It's the first one I gave 6 stars out of 5 to (it's that good.) Her most recent novel, Sisterland, was one of my favorite reads of 2013. What to do in the absence of a new Curtis Sittenfeld novel than to read her earlier works?

The basics: The Man of My Dreams is the story of Hannah, a somewhat awkward and troubled young woman. The story begins in 1991, when Hannah is 14, and it stretches to 2005.

My thoughts: I avoided reading The Man of My Dreams for many years. It seems to have a reputation as Curtis Sittenfeld's bad book. It was her sophomore slump. It's the book about which my reading friends say "I loved all her books but that one." Finally, I said, "enough is enough." I want to see for myself, and I'm so glad I did. I absolutely adored it, and I so wish I would have read it in my early-to-mid-twenties (it came out in 2006, the year in which I turned 26.)

The Man of My Dreams is the anti-romantic comedy, and I love it for that. The reader meets Hannah when she's fourteen and having her first potentially romantic or sexual interactions with boys. When we next see her again, she is in college and still has not kissed anyone. As the narrative moves forward, we get to experience many of Hannah's firsts. As different boys and men come into her life, leave, and as some come back again, the titles of the book begs the reader to ask the question: "is he the one?" The one what changed for me as a reader. Initially it was about the one who would be her first kiss. Then the one to whom she would lose her virginity. Then, as I slowly began to root for Hannah (and not just be curious where she would end up and how), I began to wonder which one would be the one she would find long-term happiness with.

Reading this novel transported me to my early-to-mid-twenties, as I found myself wondering if and when and whom I wound end up finding happiness, short-term and long-term. Mr. Nomadreader and I started dating when I was twenty-five, which in retrospect is really early. Still, I had many men come in and out of my life in those years, and I was always searching for what the future significance of each person and interaction would be.

Favorite passages:  "Being raised in an unstable household makes you understand that the world doesn’t exist to accommodate you, which, in Hannah’s observation, is something a lot of people struggle to understand well into adulthood. It makes you realize how quickly a situation can shift, how danger really is everywhere. But crises, when they occur, do not catch you off guard; you have never believed you live under the shelter of some essential benevolence. And an unstable childhood makes you appreciate calmness and not crave excitement."

"They all are willing the moment to turn, and it is turning, it’s starting to contain the mood it will contain later, as a story they tell to other people."

The verdict: While not quite as polished as American Wife or Sisterland, The Man of My Dreams is a fascinating, thought-provoking novel. Hannah is a unique and curious character. She may not be a character I felt I had much in common with, but that makes her an even more fascinating vessel for Sittenfeld to share universal truths about life and love. The Man of My Dreams is an exploration of the people, particularly those to whom we find ourselves romantically or sexually attracted, who come into and out of our lives (and sometimes back in again.) The theme of the unexpected, wayward paths of our lives is common in Sittenfeld's work, and it's one this nomadic reader can't ever get enough of.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 285 pages
Publication date: May 16, 2006
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Man of My Dreams from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Curtis Sittenfeld's website and follow her on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. Hmm....I enjoyed Prep, but it seems like the next place to go with Sittenfield is American Wife rather than this one?

    1. I love all of her books, bu American Wife is definitely my favorite:-)

  2. Thanks to your recommendations I read both books: American Wife and Sisterland. I loved them both. Thus, this one is going to my TBR pile of books now.

    1. Thanks, Anna! I'd love to hear what you think when you read it!


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