Green Dot by Madeleine Gray: book review

Green Dot by Madeleine Gray

Overview: Hera is the other woman. Not on purpose. It was an accident, but it happened, and she didn't end it. Instead, she starts living a half-life – turning down her friends and her father's invitations for connection on the off chance he'll be able to meet up, on the off chance he'll leave his wife for her. She knows it's futile, but he becomes an obsession she must rationalize her way through, even in the lowest moments. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 I like Hera a lot. I relate to her on a number of fronts. She sticks with the guy even when she finds out he's married because she was never popular in elementary and middle school. No one has ever really seen her, but Arthur sees her. Even though she has a good group of friends now and knows how to work a room, that sad, lonely inner child thrives on the shreds of attention she earns from Arthur. I understand all too well how she fell in so hard. She's also in hear early twenties and lost and upset about the state of adulthood these days. She's already gotten a PhD. There's no more school for her to do, but she loathes the idea of a career that isn't adding to her enrichment. Her first stab at a soulless office job gets her into the mess with Arthur in the first place. While her career trajectory is a background element, I did find it really relatable. She's also funny and witty and very in-touch with the young twenty-something vibe. 

The rest of the characters that fill out Hera's life are deeply compelling, and it's a shame that they only feature in the background. Hera's dad is her backbone. She goes back and forth between living with him and trying to strike out on her own, and he's always there to offer a soft place to land. Their bond is incredibly sweet and reminds me of my own relationship with my mom. At one point in the book, Hera says, "None of my friends seem to need their parents whereas I need my dad so much," and I felt quite seen. She also has two great friends that try to drag her out of isolation and remind her that life is bigger than Arthur or whatever her current trouble is. 

Hera has a rich life. Which is why it's so sad that most of the book is spent obsessing over Arthur, a middle aged married man that's as flat as can be. I can't tell if it's an intentional authorial choice that we have very little (compelling or otherwise) information about Arthur. He's a cardboard cut out. Perhaps this is meant to emphasize how irrational and strange it is to experience infatuation. The relationship makes sense when he's a co-worker crush that takes her mind off her horrible job. We've all had a dubious quality work or class crush to get us through long days, but Hera maintains this fantasy even after she leaves that job, and I just don't get what makes this guy so great. It didn't help my enjoyment of the book that instead of probing the very interesting, detailed family, work, and friendship dynamics that we just spin in circles around the world's most boring man.

Plot: 4 The book really had me for the first half, but then it just got a bit boring. Again, I could see the way the book progresses being a commentary on the devastation that infatuation brings to your life, but it just doesn't gel well into a compelling novel if that's the case. From around the half way point, Hera's world gets so small that she just spirals around the same repetitive meet ups with Arthur and then despairing when he's gone. Her life ceases to exist outside of him, and he's hardly around. 

I understand this is true to how real life works, but as a reader, it just felt like nothing was progressing from each of these meet ups. I just yearned to know what the point of all this could be. I wished I could see more of Hera's banter with her co-workers and nights out with friends and probing into her complicated family past. There is so much good stuff that was hinted at, and we get none of it. The commentary on being the "mistress" and whatnot also just lacked depth and had a circular nature as well. I empathize deeply with Hera and how she's mistreated in the relationship, but there just wasn't enough brought to the story to keep this increasingly narrow focus compelling.

Writing: 3.5 I think I was way too hyped for this one. So many 5 star reviews. So many people saying the Fleabag comparison was well earned. I liked the book! Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I read it, but I just don't quite see the brilliance of it. There were a lot of cracks in the fundamental storytelling for me. I found the direct address, Fleabag fourth-wall breaking style awkward most of the time, though this wasn't going to make or break my opinion on the book. It works in Fleabag, but Fleabag is heralded the way it is for a reason – it's unique. 

My bigger problem was that this book is all telling and very little showing. I think this is where most of my frustration with all of the scenes with Arthur come from and why I feel like I don't know him at all. Hera relates nearly all these moments as exposition. There is very little in scene (and these times are typically with friends or her dad, which might explain why I liked those piece of the story more). She tells us they had sex, they talked about the only five topics they ever talk about, and then he left her again. It's very hard to find the depth in so much showing. While the voice is fun, and I really like Hera, there were enough foundational issues that it kept me from fully loving the book despite being very excited about it.

More on Reading, Writing, and Me:

March 2024 Reading Wrap Up

Anita de Monte Laughs Last review 

Beautiful World Where Are You re-review

Conversations on Love nonfiction review

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