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The Secret Life of Prince Charming

Review

The Secret Life of Prince Charming

Quinn's female kin have had all kinds of romances with all kinds of losers. Her mother is particularly bitter about her father, who left the family for a series of women. Quinn is defensive of her father and needs to love him. She wants her mother to recognize that he is still present and important in Quinn's life, having returned recently to pick up a relationship with Quinn and her little sister, Sprout.

Quinn’s mother even goes so far as to compose a list of warning signs that a man will leave you heartbroken. Her grandmother and aunt, who live with them, have their own tales of romantic woe. Meanwhile, all the members of Quinn's family seem to be harboring secrets of one kind or another --- even their dog.

While Quinn defends her father to her mother, she sometimes struggles to stand up for him in her own mind. On their weekends with him, he doesn't always feed Quinn and Sprout; he gets involved in something creative and forgets about mundane subjects like food. Their mother packs Quinn and Sprout sandwiches to eat on the train as they head to their father's house for a weekend. At the station, they look for his current girlfriend, Brie. Although Brie is never late, she’s not waiting for them. When their father finally appears, he announces that Brie has left him. The news dismays both girls, especially Sprout, who has formed a strong bond with Brie and Brie's little boy.

Quinn defends their father again, saying he isn't at fault for Brie's leave-taking, but an angry Sprout is having none of it. That evening, Quinn gets ready to call Daniel, her boyfriend. Daniel seems like the right person to be her boyfriend, yet she feels an unexplainable emotional distance from him. On this night, she can't quite summon the enthusiasm to actually contact him. As she looks around her father's living room, she is struck by the objects in it. Many are one-of-a-kind pieces of art, and he loves explaining how he acquired each one.

Idly, Quinn picks up a glass statue and sees writing on the bottom. She realizes that it actually belongs to Brie. Why does her father have it? Quinn tries to tell herself that maybe Brie gave it to him as a gift, but she doesn't believe it. She begins examining the other pieces, finding that they all belong to women her father has had relationships with. The realization leaves her breathless and confused. It preys on her mind even when she's at home and dealing with Daniel, who’s acting strangely. And the next time she sees her father, she’s struck by how easily he has forgotten Brie and is moving on to casual flirtations. When she confronts him about the statue, his answer strikes her as false.

Quinn decides to do something totally unexpected. She calls her older half-sister, Frances Lee. Frances Lee is Quinn's father's daughter from his first marriage, and a stranger to Quinn, who remembers meeting her just once. When Quinn confides that their father not only has a painting belonging to Frances Lee's mother, but also many other souvenirs of romantic conquests, Quinn and Frances Lee form a daring plan. Since their father is off with a new woman, they will remove the objects he has stolen and return them to their owners. (Frances Lee urges a quailing Quinn to "think like Robin Hood.) But in order to fulfill their "karmic quest," Quinn is going to have to tell some convoluted stories to her mother --- and Sprout insists on coming along.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PRINCE CHARMING is a page-turner of a road trip with engaging characters (a 10-foot-tall cheeseburger-toting hitchhiker, a dog with a secret life, a handsome young guitar player with true integrity, and more) and a gripping plot. Quinn's internal journey is as fascinating as the one she takes in Frances Lee's truck. The novel is charmingly funny yet has substance and depth as it muses on the many different flavors of love. Although I sometimes found myself a bit lost as to the identity of the interjected tales from women in Quinn's life (especially early in the book), that is the tiniest of quibbles in a truly exquisite read. The conclusion Quinn comes to about love and family is mostly heart-filling, a little heartbreaking --- and wholly satisfying.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on April 7, 2009

The Secret Life of Prince Charming
by Deb Caletti

  • Publication Date: March 16, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • ISBN-10: 1416959416
  • ISBN-13: 9781416959410