190-bridesmaid-for-hireThere’s a new romance author in town and she’s a real ace with her squirtgun. Pretty good with a pen too.

I picked up a copy of Anne Wagener’s debut novel and dove into the story. I’m pleased to have found a book that is a positive, funny, and doesn’t shy away from characters that matter.

The basic character and setting is this: young woman hires herself out as a bridesmaid. Adventures ensue and coming of age is achieved.

The protagonist, Piper Brody, is lost in a circling pattern as her life floats free of her college intermediary jump to adulthood. She’s stuck in the limbo of a boring, low paying job with a creep boss. Meanwhile, her best friend and roommate Lin is moving into a serious relationship with his chef boyfriend.

Going broke, she decides to pursue a course of becoming a bridesmaid for hire. From that moment forward her life begins to unfold and Piper discovers new friendship and hope for the future. She also finds a new romantic prospect—a gentle, fellow writer named Charlie who thrills and inspires her.

The antagonist is a toxic ex-girlfriend of Charlie’s named Holly who refuses to let go and is determined to marry Charlie despite anyone’s self interest (including her own). Backing her up is a mother who is a local politician with an eye for power and domination. Can Piper save the day as bridesmaid in Charlie and Holly’s demon wedding? Hilarity and tension ensue.

The things that stood out most to me are the author’s great turns of phrase, astute eye for detail, and smart choices in timing. These techniques really serve the story well and give the narrative ammunition a lot of punch and momentum. Best of all, the protagonist makes hard choices and resolves the story so there’s an actual ending.

Piper is a likable protagonist. She’s spontaneous, determined, and caring. She has a strong reckless streak owing to her lack of confidence in herself. Part of her development involves finding her anger and standing up for herself—then she is capable of bravery in the face of horrible behavior.

She’s also surrounded by wonderful supporting characters. The relationships between them are solid and reveal all sorts of interesting things about their inner workings. I’m a big relationship junkie, so I love watching characters interact with each other and this story delivers on that.

The book is loaded with kooky and absurd moments of humor. I laughed out loud a lot, there were so many great phrases. I plan to use “emotional panty line” and “Grover Clevelanded” for myself in the future.

Not just funny quotes though, but some fantastic moments of writing insight worth pondering in-story. The author has a rich and powerful imaginative space inside of her. I think people who enjoy underlining favorite passages will have a blast with this book.

The book is definitely a page-turner, filled with fun and nail-biting excitement. There’s a larger, more important subtext in the book though. Piper is a manifestation of the idea of the maiden as subversive.

There’s a scene in the book where Holly’s politician mother Lena attempts to explain the facts of life about bridesmaids to Piper, in an attempt to dominate our plucky heroine into submission and obedience. That a bridesmaid is a handmaiden, or servant, and therefore a non-person.

That’s getting the visible face of the role right, but it’s an incorrect conclusion. Lena only sees half the story and so doesn’t understand why the bridesmaid is a servant (and thus what it means). It’s a fatal error to make at a moment when her plan is about to come to fruition.

There is another side to the bridesmaid in the internal world. In Roman times, the bridal party all dressed alike, and the bridesmaid was intended as a decoy to fool evil spirits. The idea was that evil spirits would not be able to find the real bride and would jack the bridesmaid instead, freeing the bride to have a trouble free wedding and begin life on a positive note.

This is where the idea of the bridesmaid as friend, confidante, and trusted helper comes from. Rather than a bauble for an aristocrat, she becomes a bodyguard and protector. How bad ass is that?

When you combine the external and internal face, what emerges is a feminine version of The Fool. The Fool is free to move as she pleases, unimpeded by convention and capable of both hilarity and heroism.

I think that idea should be explored just on principle. The bridesmaid lends her body as a status symbol, but her soul is a crucial support—this is reinforced again and again in the text of the book. Piper helps those who need help, and throws a monkey wrench into the mix when bad heads are causing trouble.

This is very relevant culturally. It occurs to me that women need to see the internal face of this role as much as the external one. That there is something exciting, helpful and courageous underlying the bridesmaid.

And it occurs to me that men could also benefit from having an experience of this hidden side of the bridesmaid. Like the Fool, she works in the wings and out of direct sight—sometimes a helper and sometimes a hindrance, but also an agent towards helping men become more conscious of their own choices.

I mean, if I were a bride, I would feel so much better knowing there was a hidden secret ninja agent performing tricks and shenanigans to keep me safe from evil spirits. How cool is that?

Top notch.

5 out of 5 Stars of the Magi