Real life serves as muse in John Jaffe’s first novel, based on the Silver Spring author’s courting of his current wife.
Annie Hollerman was a rising star in journalism with a budding romance. Twenty years and one big mistake later, she’s a powerful literary agent but divorced, alone, and jaded. Enter Jack DePaul, a divorced father and rakish editor at the fictional Baltimore Star-News. He’s determined to win Annie’s heart the old fashioned way—through words. In a series of e-mails, he imagines a new history of the two of them together—from a train ride in the Malaysian jungle to a hike through Utah’s deserted canyons.
Reminiscent of a Hollywood romantic comedy, Thief of Words stands out for two reasons: First, it’s a story of a couple coming to grips with a relationship in their mid-forties; burdened by failed marriages and professional disappointments, they must find a way to trust again. Second, Jaffe peppers the story with Jack’s e-mails—and clearly has fun doing so:
“[H]ow can I explain that particular sky, that particular day, to Annie? How it turned maroon then navy as the sun dropped away. How bright the night was, how warm. How a young boy crossed the street from his house and entered a moon-licked orchard full of ripening apricots and furrows of black water.”
There’s one drawback—locals may be annoyed at the errors about Washington. Arguably forgivable: placing the Dupont Circle Firehook Bakery on P Street instead of Q. Unforgivable: referring to Capitol Hill’s extraordinary Eastern Market as Southern Market. Despite the faux pas, Jaffe’s book is an enjoyable companion for curling up on the couch or lying on the beach. We’ll forgive him the mix-ups . . . this time.