by Leslie Esdaile, contemporary (2001)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-186-3
Oh, what a wasted opportunity Love Lessons is. It's obvious that its noble intentions - to salute teachers as the true heroes of society and to emphasize the importance of family and love and all - shine through like a pure and cleansing light. Unfortunately, the author gets carried away that she ends up writing a very preachy and frequently eh-inducing social pamphlet.
I mean, I have to reread the first chapter a few times before the convoluted mess of disharmonious imageries sink in and understanding dawns in my feeble old brain.
Love Lessons is written in an overly-whimsical yet simultaneously zealous, almost violent passion that can drive even a first year idealistic philosophy student up the wall. The story of single Dad, music video director, and filmmaker Trevor Winston clashing with dedicated teacher Corey Hamilton over the matter of his neglected son Miquel (Trev and Corey will fall in love, of course), Love Lessons features long, run-on dialogs nobody in real life speaks unless they are reading from a prepared speech. It is filled with too-convenient resolutions to complicated problems - how many rebellious teenagers do you know that nod and go "Yes, yes, you're right!" after a long, nagging speech by Uncle Trevor?
Paradoxically, it is also filled with genuine pain and human insecurities that make me weep to read. Trevor's sister is especially a moving character, a woman who gave up all her dreams for a family that she watches falls apart more day by day. Sometimes, she still dreams. Trevor isn't a simple father who can redeem himself with lavishing Miquel with toys and praises: his reason for his neglect of Miquel isn't what you always find in romance novels. Trev's reasons are, er, very spiritual, shall we say? Indeed, Trev muses about life, loneliness, and pain like an obsessed artist bent on dark and gloom. In a way, I understand that. I have gone through those phases myself. And on a more personal note, Trev sort of brings out all my unfulfilled wishes and dreams of a less absent father in my life. Corey's devotion to teaching and guiding her students into being good, worthy people can be a bit on the overly zealous, no-life side too, but in a way, she fits right in this story. Everyone is so fanatical on being guilty, driven, and hurt that it's like a congregation of gloomy artists.
But I guess there is still that spark of the (pretentious) rebellious teen in me that still finds this philosophical ruminations of pain, guilt, sorrow, responsibilities, et cetera fascinating. And there is still an idealist in me that wants to cheer when Ms Esdaile makes Trevor and Corey try so hard to be good parent figures. They don't succeed perfectly, but their trying is what makes them better persons.
Great intentions, sometimes beautiful scenes, interspersed with bizarre, cheesy, and didactic monologues and propaganda. I find Love Lessons alternatively bizarre and brilliant. In the end, I guess there's some part of me that likes such schizophrenic mess. A mess that leaves me unmoved is just that - a mess. But one that moves me into both weeping, laughing, and screeching "That's so stoopid!", ah, now that's flawed but brilliant eccentricity.
Yes, I'm so weird, am I not?
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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