The Decent Proposal

Harper. Apr. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9780062391629. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062391605. F
Richard Baumbach and Elizabeth Santiago have never met, yet a mysterious benefactor offers them each $500,000 to spend a minimum of two hours a week together for a year. Superconservative Elizabeth, known around her law firm as "La Máquina" (the Machine) for her work ethic and billable hours, is skeptical to say the least. She has issues owing to a "rough patch" years ago that she won't discuss. Ladies' man Richard sees nothing wrong with the plan; he could use the money to help launch his L.A. production company. Eventually, they are both on board but wonder how they will fill those two weekly hours over 52 weeks. Not so thrilled is Mike (Michaela) Kim, Richard's college girlfriend who broke up with him right before graduation but is now also in Los Angeles and is Richard's best bud (to her regret). And who is the secret philanthropist who set it all in motion?
VERDICT Debut author Donovan takes what might have been a derivative tale and colors it with poignancy and self-discovery. Readers will likely forgive the too-easy denouement after appreciating the artful and arresting writing. For most readers of contemporary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 10/26/15.]
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