Book Review: George and Lizzie by Nancy Pearl

There they both were, Lizzie and George, in their separate worlds, surely a clue to what their future relationship would be. George steps towards the line, brings his arm forward and smoothly lets go of his ball, and at the same moment Lizzie tries to throw her ball spinning down the alley, but something immediately goes wrong. (Or right, depending on what’s important to you.) Lizzie’s ball hits the floor with an awesome crash and somehow leaps over the ball-return mechanism that separates the lanes and crashes right into George’s ball, which until that moment has been rolling straight and true toward what certainly looked like an imminent strike, and now both balls make their separate but casually related ways to the gutter.

George and Lizzie by Nancy Pearl follows the two title characters through their lives before they meet and into their married life. George is a sweet, homely guy who grew up in a loving home. Lizzie is a neurotic, self-centered young woman who grew up as the subject of her behavioral psychologist parent’s many experiments and papers. Together they make quite the pair but it is through their many quirks that they build a loving relationship which is put to the test repeatedly by Lizzie’s unresolved past.

In a naive attempt at rebellion and, possibly, autonomy, Lizzie proposes to her best friend that they share in The Great Game- a marathon of sorts to sleep with the 23 starting players on their high school football team. When her friend laughs it off as a crazy joke, Lizzie decides to push on, and spends her final high school year seducing and sleeping with each player on a weekly rotation. However, Lizzie is not fulfilled by this choice but rather filled with an unfortunate mixture of regret and shame that haunts her for the rest of her life.

Seeking companionship with more substance than the type found between bedsheets, Lizzie latches on to a classmate in a college poetry class. They embark on a romantic affair typical of the early-20s university set, but when Lizzie chooses to come clean about her past lovers and The Great Game, Jack mysteriously disappears, leaving Lizze abandoned and distraught. High on marijuana and full of self-loathing, Lizzie joins a friend for an evening of bowling which sets into motion a whole new track of life, leading her right into the heart of George Goldrosen.

Lizzie put down the red pen and went into the kitchen. She got another can of soda. When she closed the refrigerator drawer she searched among the pictures, the long-outdated invitations, the cartoons and notes all stuck on with magnets, and finally found what she was looking for. She studied it for a few silent minutes, smiling as she remembered the bowling debacle, and then she picked up the phone and called George.

No matter how hard she tries, which in classic Lizzie style isn’t very hard at all, she cannot shake her obsession with Jack and what could have been. With her heart cleaved in two she pursues George, knowing in some subconscious way that he may be her only chance at the type of love she deserves. Though she never truly believes that about herself, still so caught up by her past mistakes.

Maybe the roll George played in her life was to distract her from the voices in her head and all her despair about Jack. Ugh, Lizzie, she said to herself, that is a terrible thing to think. Unfortunately, it sounded very true. Maybe she needed someone in her life besides Marla and James, another person who didn’t despise her or think sh was an awful human being. Maybe that someone was George. It was quite possible that George had unaccountably fallen for her, and fallen hard. He didn’t know about Jack or that biggest, stupidest, most awful mistake, the Great Game. He had no idea of all her many sorrows and her multitude of flaws.

When George counsels one of his dental patients he is thrown into the life of celebrity motivational speaker and the reader gets a true sense of the heart of this novel. George is majorly successful in helping people in the greater public, though he only has eyes for the one person who he has spent his adult life trying to help: Lizzie.

George and Lizzie stand in opposition to represent the many ways people cope with life: our past, our childhood and our choices. To what degree these affect us and how they influence our future relationships and lifestyle is explored throughout the remainder of the story. Pearl explores the ways individuals support and sabotage one another and themselves. George and Lizzie is ultimately about how the life we live before joining a couple undoubtedly affects the future of that relationship.

See, we’re always writing the narrative of our lives, and when you respond badly you turn the even into a burden, something that you carry forward into the next moment, the next hour, the next day, and the rest of your life. It fills up your narrative. It weighs you down. You never forget it. But when you respond well, you have nothing to add to the narrative. You simply experience the unpleasantness, the let it naturally pass away, and then greet the next moment in your life with no trace of the last.


A review copy of this title was provided by Touchstone Books.


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