Tiffanie DeBartolo’s novel God-Shaped Hole is a story of love, adventure, heartbreak and growth in L.A., which plays out after main character Beatrice (“Trixie”) impulsively responds to a strange personal ad in L.A. Weekly.
The ad read: “If your intentions are pure, I’m seeking a friend for the end of the world.” Not realizing that the strange combination of those fifteen words were actually the lyrics of a Chris Cornell song, the ad was something Beatrice (the quirky, cynical, 27-year-old daughter of affluent parents) couldn’t help but be curious enough about to actually reply to.
On the other end of the personal ad was Jacob, a writer with a beautiful face, an adventurous lust for life, a strung-out ex-girlfriend, an unfinished novel, and an extremely shabby wardrobe. When the two meet up in a little diner in downtown Los Angeles, they instantly form both an attraction and a connection with one another like neither had ever experienced before. From that day forward, they were inseparable. With mutual creative sides (Beatrice, as an artist in the form of jewellery maker, and Jacob with his writing); a desire to get out of California and never look back; and the pain of both not having fathers in their lives, Beatrice and Jacob share a very intense, very organic love affair. As the story progresses and their relationship grows, we bop along smoggy L.A. with the love-birds as they meet each other’s friends and families, make plans for and daydream about their future in the south, and even spend a good chunk of the book searching for and finding Jacob’s biological father (though not without consequence).
Throughout DeBartolo’s novel, one can’t help but admire Beatrice and Jacob and anxiously await the day when Jacob finally completes and sells his book so that they can run away to live happily ever after together in Memphis. Despite all the love, hope, and hilarious anecdotes from Beatrice and Jacob throughout the book, what really made this a page-turner was the faint feeling of foreboding that lingered on every page. I hated to think that the happiness wouldn’t last, but I always felt it coming, and I was desperate to find out what could possibly go wrong and how. When tragedy did hit in the final chapters, it was nearly impossible not to feel every ounce of sadness that the characters did.
Tiffanie DeBartolo has a really refreshing voice as an author, and it’s what makes Beatrice and Jacob’s story truly come alive. Her characters are real – flawed, honest, identifiable, powerful – and it makes them that much more engaging and, most of all, likeable. Several times throughout the book, I’d stop and think to myself how much I was reminded of the writing of Francesca Lia Block. Though God-Shaped Hole was free of the magical element often found in Block’s stories, I couldn’t help but feel as though it was written in a similar vain, only perhaps more mature in nature. As someone who grew up reading the words of Miss Block, the similar style was something I enjoyed very much, even if it stemmed mostly from the comfort of nostalgia.
The way I’ve written about the novel may make it seem as though it is merely a story of romance between two lovers, but it really is much more than that (though I’m trying not to give too much of the really good stuff away). The main element, of course, is the love story between Beatrice and Jacob, but the novel also explores the sort of love between best friends, parents and siblings. Because of Beatrice and Jacob, you’re taken on a journey of what it means to survive difficult childhoods and the divorce of or absence of parents. And it’s an exploration of how past pain can affect who we are, who we want to become, and how it all influences our relationships with other people. To call this novel ’emotional’ would be an understatement, that’s for sure! Before having read it for myself I’d heard nothing but good things about it, and now, I’d have to agree – this is a fantastic book. In fact, I loved it so much, upon finishing it I immediately got on the internet and ordered Tiffanie’s other novel (How To Kill A Rockstar).
Would I recommend God-Shaped Hole? Absolutely! And like I mentioned before, I was reminded a lot of the work of Francesca Lia Block while reading it and so feel like it is the perfect read for any of her now grown-up readers. Regardless though, definitely, definitely check it out!