Old Fashioned
By Rene Gutteridge
Rik Swartzwelder
Published by Tyndale
303 Pages

Back Cover: Former frat boy Clay Walsh has given up his reckless lifestyle and settled down to run an antique shop in a small Midwestern college town. Determined to put his partying ways behind him, Clay has become notorious for his lofty and outdated theories on love and romance. But when Amber Hewson, a free-spirited woman with a gypsy soul, rents the apartment above his shop, Clay can’t help being attracted to her spontaneous and passionate embrace of life.

New to the area, Amber finds herself surprisingly drawn to Clay and his noble ideas, but her own fears and deep wounds are difficult to overcome. Can they move beyond their differences and their pasts to attempt an “old-fashioned” courtship?

REVIEW: I’m a Rene Gutteridge fan so I was excited to read her latest. I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that let me experience a new depth and richness to Rene Gutteridge’s writing. This book is not like any of this authors other works.  She took the screen play that Rik Swartzwelder wrote and created a funny and deeply emotional read. This novel had a rhythm all of its own, it had a distinct feel, it was different, real and gutsy in parts. I liked it. It was refreshing.

This novels back drop is Clay Walsh’s antique shop. It’s a place he repairs broken things and has just rented the apartment above his shop to a young woman named Amber. Both of these people are about to have a close encounter of the real kind. Clay and Amber came from divorced families. They've tried to manage the pain they have deep inside as they try not to think about how they hurt themselves and others. Amber’s a free spirited woman who loves nature and having fun. When life gets too hard she gets in her car and drives to where ever it runs out of gas. She then looks for a job and starts life over again.

Clay on the other hand is a man who regrets his past and has spent the past 9 years trying hard to be the “perfect” good guy. Both of the lead characters have heavy baggage from their colorful pasts that weigh them down. It’s a daily struggle and burden they bear.

Clay wants to make right decisions and treat women with respect; it’s not popular with the friends he hung out with in collage; who say if it feels good do it. In making this decision Clay realizes he ddoesn'tknow how to be with a woman without the rules he’s come up with to keep them safe from him and him from them. He realizes that “Sometimes doing right is more than not doing wrong.”

Relationships are complex and grasping the reality that someone can love you unconditionally (even when they know all your secrets) is unnerving and powerful. I loved the diversity of the supporting cast. It is rich in characterization which adds to the “fun” factor of this novel.

I liked how this author naturally wove in themes of forgiveness, love, redemption, and relationships throughout this novel. This is done in a simple and a non-preachy way; it makes you think for example: “Next to him sat the Scotch tape. He remembered Cosie; all wound up in it, stuck from head to toe. He wondered if that’s what he looked like to God: a broken mess taped together by grace – grace that until now he’d rejected. Just like the law had been given to show him his sin, maybe the cracks stayed there to show him God’s grace…hadn't he seen the Leonard Cohen lyrics on Amber’s bulletin board? “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Topic of premarital sex is talked about, along with showing alcohol use and the early stages of a bachelor party.  There is a fun and interesting interview in the back of the book where Rene Gutteridge interviews screen play writer Rik Swartzwelder. I highly recommend this book to everyone and especially to book clubs. There are fifteen discussion questions to get your group heading to a lively meeting.

I am looking forward to seeing this movie in theaters Valentine’s day, February 14th. 

This story made me smile wide, laugh out-loud, shake my head as these quirky characters said the craziest things. Its thought provoking and emotionally gripping. It’s a tender story that has you look at relationships (even your own) in a new way. It’s a book you won’t want to miss.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog
Book Fun Magazine


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