I have loved Curtis Sittenfeld’s work from Prep to Eligible, but somehow I missed The Man of My Dreams. Or, more honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the title and I thought it would be a kind of Prince Charming fairy tale and I don’t love happily ever after. But, it turned out to be something else entirely.
Sittenfeld’s protagonist in Prep is lonely and angry; in The Man of My Dreams, Hannah Gavener is lonely and sweet, unyielding in her self-examination and self-deprecation, a little needy, kind, empathetic, a tad off-center. I felt not only like I knew her, but like I could be her.
The novel begins with Hannah, age fourteen, living with her aunt because her angry father threw the whole family out of the house. At fourteen, Hannah is obsessed with celebrities and interested in a boy with a tattoo. The novel leaps forward and Hannah-in-college struggles to make friends. In the working world, she is still painfully unsure of herself. Over and over, she muddles through social situations with pluck and determination. She gives her every failure thorough examination.
Hannah is not her sister Allison--married to a nice guy, making a nice family. She is also not her cousin Fig—wild, self-centered, gorgeous. Hannah is tentative, sweet, both too eager and too reluctant.
Sittenfeld’s writing is funny, observant, dead-on. This book made me laugh, made me sigh with frustration at Hannah’s every bad decision, and ultimately made me root for her.