Review: Evvie Drake Starts Over
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes (2019)
First read of 2020!
There's something both soothing and disconcerting in reading a book by someone you feel like you know, or at least you feel like you know their voice. Author Linda Holmes hosts the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which I listen to weekly. So, I've been hearing her actual voice for years now, and I also feel I know her literary voice because I've read some of her articles, and because I've heard her discuss books, movies, tv shows, etc., so I know her taste, and her style of describing things. As I read Evvie Drake Starts Over, Holmes' first novel, I could hear and feel her on the page, which made it feel comfortably familiar, but also a bit like I already knew where things were going.
The book centers on Evvie Drake, a recently-widowed and unhappy woman living in Maine, and Dean Tenney, a recently-retired Major League Baseball pitcher trying to escape NYC and his now-famous case of "the yips" - basically, the sudden onset of a complete inability to throw the ball. Dean rents an apartment attached to Evvie's house, and the two form a friendship, both trying to work through their respective issues and figure out ways to heal emotional wounds. It's got a lot of humor in it, which rescues it from becoming too sappy, and it goes deep enough into sports terminology to satisfy this baseball fan, but not so deep that someone who could care less about baseball will mind the references.
The book has a few deep little nuggets of truth that might make you cry (I'm just saying. They made ME cry.). Like this description of what it's like to be in a relationship where you feel trapped: "It was like paddling a boat, but for ten years. And you're not getting anywhere, and you're ready to stop. But the farther you get, the more you think, 'Well, I'll just go another hundred yards. In case its right up there. So I didn't take this whole trip for nothing.'"
Or this description of what it's like to keep your best friend, but no longer be the most important person in their life: "My therapist calls it 'grieving the first call' ... She says when something happens, good or bad, you can only call one person first. And if you've been somebody's first call, it's hard not to be their first call anymore. She says it's one of the reasons why parents sometimes feel sad when their kids are getting married. It's not just the empty nest. They're not the first call anymore. I'm not the first call anymore."
At heart, it's a sweet and witty romantic comedy. I could absolutely see this being made into a movie that you'd watch from the couch on a snow day. I'm picturing something like a nice Emma Stone/Chris Helmsworth match-up amongst the craggy bluffs of rural Maine (I've never been to Maine, but I imagine they have some good craggy bluffs). It was an easy, fast, and fun read. I liked it. But not enough to keep it (limited shelf space means I have to be extra selective in what I hang onto), which means I have a lovely hardcover copy for the first to claim it!
One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR
(Photo above: Reading on my couch with a cup of coffee in a Rochester Red Wings mug, because baseball.)
UP NEXT: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, by Juliet Grames
(given to me by my friend Shannon for Christmas).