Getting Rid of Bradley - Jennifer Crusie Liking or not liking a book is such a personal thing. Sometimes readers come across triggers when reading a book that cause dislike, distaste, horror to set in. I know I've been there, done that. For instance, I read a very popular author's book not so long ago that was praised very highly and loved widely, but when a character referred to my home state as "backwoods" and then made a joke about bagels not being available in this "backwoods" state, I was a little offended. There was a ...tone that ran throughout the book and after this, I couldn't shake the feeling that the author had played into that stereotypical descriptor that all southern states are full of redneck, racist, bigoted hillbillies who can't read or write and run around barefoot with guns. Bagels? Here? In the south? Are you kidding? You know, those Southerners would probably mistake them for doughnuts or use them as collars for their hunting dogs. See? It's personal.

I've learned you can't just rely on 4 and 5 star reviews or even glowing comments on various blogs so I tend to read the most negative reviews first and then a few of the 4/5 star reviews before taking the plunge. And this is what I did before I bought "Getting Rid of Bradley" by Jennifer Crusie. Phew! While the majority of reviews were positive, I was surprised by how blistering the not so favorable reviews were. Lucy was so stupid, according to some, that she couldn't be fixed. Lucy had less than smart reactions to danger and zero sense of self preservation. The story was criticized as draggy, predictable, and lacking in reality. The dialogue was unpleasant, and the hero was, well, boring. The book was too sexually explicit but not as bad as, say, Welcome To Temptation. I didn't feel the same way these reviewers did at all after reading "Getting Rid of Bradley", but as I said, liking/not liking is personal.

Lucy Savage is a high school physics teacher on the verge of divorcing her husband of eight months, Bradley Porter. Lucy's world has always been ruled by logic, not emotion. She's not spontaneous, she's not the "fun type", and her one foray into impulsivity resulted in her marriage to the spurious Bradley. As she explains to her sister, Tina: "I married him because of the second law of thermonuclear dynamics" which states that "isolated systems move toward disorder until they reach their most probable from, and then they remain constant." (18-19)

Lucy goes on to add that she was an "isolated system" (read as lonely) living alone in a small apartment with a her dog, Einstein. She had no social life, and feared she would just continue to be lonely as that appeared to be her most "probable form". She decides she is going to "un isolate" herself. Her decision coincides with Bradley picking her up at the library, and this is so "logical" to her and his timing so perfect, Lucy knows that Physics brought them together.

The highlight of Lucy's marriage to Bradley was getting the house she'd dreamed about and two more dogs - Heisenberg and Maxwell. She admits she loved the house more than she ever loved Bradley, that he knew it, and that's why he cheated on her. So even though Lucy is free, she feels "stupid." Sure, she has "science brains" but admits to a severe lacking in "real life brains." She has only ever been identified as "smart" and now even that is questionable. Lucy is in the middle of a crisis, and chaos reigns.

Detective Zack Warren and his partner, Detective Anthony Taylor, are in pursuit of an embezzler, John Bradley. When they get an anonymous tip that Bradley will be at Harvey's Diner, the same place Lucy and Tina are having lunch after Lucy's divorce hearing, and they overhear Lucy telling Tina she will "get rid of Bradley", Zack believes he's got a lead on his embezzler. Zack follows Lucy out and a series of comic misdirections leads Lucy to believe Zack is a mugger. She clouts him with her purse (holding her five-pound physics book) in the stomach, in the mouth, and then in the head. She's proud of herself for besting a mugger and feeling very empowered until she finds out she beat up a cop. As I said, chaos reigns.

Zack is 36 going on 18, almost like Peter Pan who never wants to grow up. His theme song could be that Toys R Us jingle that goes: "I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys R' Us kid. A million toys to choose from, that I can play with. From bikes to trikes and video games, its the biggest toy store there is. GEE WIZ! I don't wanna grow up, cuz baby if I did....
I wouldn't be a toys r' us kid!" Anyway, he apparently is having a mid-life crisis that has him "snarling at younger men on the force", and dating women who are "younger than his car."

Zack fears he's not as fast as he used to be and he's losing his instincts. He's getting . . . older and realizing what made life satisfying before is suddenly not enough. The way he focuses that dissatisfaction is not internal at first. Instead he blames his restlessness on physically slowing down. For example, as he chases a thief, he's shocked to be thinking how crazy it is to be running across a roof and falling from said roof because someone lifted a camcorder. Or when he's faced with vaulting over a desk to disarm a guy with a gun and his only thought is how much it's going to hurt to jump the desk and hoping the bad guy will just surrender the gun quietly. Maturity, according to Zack, is "death." His brothers are married, with kids, big houses, and that dreaded "R" word: responsibilities, or "living death." Even worse, Zack's love life has stalled for the past two months. It's at this point that Lucy and Zack's lives become entangled.

I loved the sparks and chemistry mixed with that trademark Crusie humor between Zack and Lucy. Zack is immediately drawn to Lucy, her old Victorian house, and especially her three "vicious attack dogs." Einstein the sheep dog leans on his leg shedding and drooling, skinny brown Maxwell parks his rump on Zack's foot and "stares off into space at nothing in particular", and then there's Heisenberg the "floor mop" who does the best dog joke ever. ("Dead dog!") The cherry on top of all this insanity is Mrs. Dover, Lucy's nosy next-door neighbor and Phoebe the cat from hell. Here's the setup.

"I knew this neighborhood was finished when you moved in," Mrs.
Dover shouted back. "Torturing my cat. Bringing those vicious dogs
in. Coming and going at all hours."

"Lovely day, isn't it?" Lucy came out on the porch and looked down
at Zack.

"Torturing her cat?" Zack asked and Lucy shook up her head.

"Phoebe hasn't been the same since the Porters moved in," Mrs.
Dover said. "I've called the humane society but they won't do
anything. Oh no." (73)

(I have one of those neighbors, you know. Don't we all?) As Zack goes out to meet the patrol car, Pheobe attacks him.

A large dirty yellow cat leaped on his leg, burying her claws deeply
into his calf through his jeans. Zack kicked out, and the cat dropped
away while Mrs. Dover screeched at him from the street.

"Meet Phoebe," Lucy said.

"Damn!" Zack nursed his shin. "What's wrong with that animal?"

"I think she's psychotic. I hate her because she uses my car for a
litter box so I have to keep the windows rolled up all the time, even in
the summer. And because all three of my dogs are terrified of her."
(74-75)

But Phoebe the cat from hell isn't done yet because she then latches on to the patrolman. At which point Zack tells him to shoot the cat because it's assaulted two officers and "resisted arrest." I think I snorted my tea all over everything when I read this part. And then there's Pete, the dirty, limping, "most pathetic-looking" ever stray dog that Zack brings home to Lucy who loves Pete immediately and Zack even more for bringing her a dog. The interaction between Lucy and Zack when Pete comes to live with them was funny and touching and sweet. Tina sums it up nicely.

"I could have fixed you up with somebody rich who'd bring you
diamonds. (...) But you want a guy who's never going to make six
figures and who brings you flea-bitten dogs."

"Yes," Lucy said.

"You're hopeless," Tina said. (268)

"Getting Rid of Bradley" is romantic comedy at its best. Jennifer Crusie's books are never boring, run-of-the-mill, same old/same old. I think I'd love to live next door to Lucy, Zack, Einstein, Maxwell, Heisenberg, and Pete. (Okay, Pheobe - not so much.). The point is these are characters I like, that I leave at the end of the book wanting more. "Getting Rid of Bradley" may not resonate with everyone, but I thought it was marvelously funny and wonderful.