Updated: Dec 13, 2022
A mixed bag in this queer retelling of the film The Holiday
The Holiday Trap
by Roan Parrish
"How had he dated a man for almost a year and never realized that he had a whole life Truman knew nothing about? Not only that, but Truman was the less secret element in an otherwise full life. How had he not noticed he was a mere daliance? A side character. A subplot in the life of a man who had taken up nearly all his spare thoughts."
I almost didn't write this review because of my philosophy on reviewing. I absolutely cannot stand Greta or Carys, but I found Truman's story to be engaging and beautifully written. So I want to recommend this book with an understanding that there isn't much holiday feeling of any variety, and the secondary storyline is where the best parts of the book lie.
This book has an identity crisis: Greta’s story is contemporary lit, and Truman’s story is romance. However, I can see where it has potential and why people would like it. Mostly what it suffers from are unlikeable characters. Greta is whiny. If she had put half as much energy into her relationships back in Maine, she would have probably ended up with a better relationship with her family. She doesn’t communicate, sets no boundaries, and then blames her family. Filled with obvious disdain, condescension, and scorn for her sisters and mother, she expects to be treated well by them. (I could also go on about how this book seeks to set boundaries through the lens of whiteness/western psychology, but that’s another conversation for another day). Carys is a manic pixie dream girl, only worse because she’s had a teaspoon of therapy and fancies herself emotionally intelligent.
With Truman and Ash, you at least see growth in their characters, even though they are clearly flawed. Their story is sweet. Truman is earnest and kind. Ash is shy and considerate. As a reader, not only could I see how they might end up together, but you can’t help but root for their relationship to succeed. The conversations with Truman and his online friends were realistic, but Charolette was my favorite. (Conversely, I think that was what Parrish was aiming for in Carys. But whereas Charolette uses her honesty bluntly but gently as a sounding board for Truman, Carys wields her honesty like a knife hiding her cruelty behind it).
There were two things that almost ruined this book for me, and shockingly it's not two of the aforementioned characters. First, the misogyny is quietly rampant in this book. Almost all of the woman characters are awful; the most self-centered, hypocritical, preachy, catty, shallow stereotypes of women congregated in this novel. Even what was supposed to be positive representation was eye-roll-inducing. The second is racial stereotypes. There is a singular Black trans woman character, and she might as well be a cardboard cutout. Her only purpose is to help this white girl (Greta) on her journey to self-discovery with sage wisdom and sass. As a black woman. In New Orleans. She’s a magical negro, and a mammy all rolled into one. I am begging white authors to leave us (Black folks) out unless you plan to make meaningful fleshed-out Black characters. I would rather us not be there at all than to see us written in such a manner.
Unfortunately, Greta’s story dominates the book, with both she and Carys being the poster children for white feminism with marginalized identities. It was an absolute slog to get through her parts of the book. Still, if you can, you’ll get a remarkable story of Truman’s journey of self-actualization and love.
Do you have a love-hate relationship with a book? Tell me in the comments!