Monday , July 22 2024
New comic novel on Internet dating provides an unexpected cathartic experience.

Book Review: Imperfect Heroes by D.J. Kelley

If you haven’t tried online dating, you are probably wondering whether it really works, and if you have tried online dating, you probably have enough stories that you could write a book. Well, D.J. Kelley has written that book, and it is all and more that you ever could have imagined.

Ten years ago, on 9/11, Chris Osborne’s wife left him for another man. Since then, Chris has tried everything possible to find the right woman for him — everything except online dating. Reasoning that his chance of accidentally finding the right woman is less likely than using online dating and its matching methods to select suitable dates, he plunges in full force, finding more women are interested in him than he could have imagined. Chats lead to emails and phone calls, and, before he knows it, Chris has several dates lined up.

Although Chris’ best friend, Ebby, a rough around the edges New Yorker, tells Chris that online dating is a mistake, Chris forges forward, agreeing to see one woman after the other. The result is a series of hilarious adventures and misadventures, sticky situations, women he would rather only be friends with, cougar women, and, of course, at least one stalker.

I found myself completely caught up in the characters and the storyline. I didn’t necessarily like all the characters, and at times, I wanted to yell at Chris, “What are you doing?” but I kept reading, cheering Chris on in hopes he would find his soulmate at last, while laughing out loud continuously over the encounters he has with some of the most memorable women in modern fiction.

Chris’ misadventures and his anxieties around dating make for an unforgettable story. Here is just one humorous passage of Chris’ thoughts after a Mexican woman he met online asks him to visit him at her hotel, then leads him to her room to give him a massage:

“Elena held the door for me as we entered the hotel’s lower level from the pool deck. I argued with myself about going to a hotel room with a Latin woman I had only just met. Stories of kidnappings were rampant in Mexico. Foreigners were usually picked up by a taxi and taken against their will. The victims were commanded to give up their bank cards and their PINs. For days while the traveler is held hostage, the bank account is then drained. In the best of cases, the victim is simply dropped off in a remote part of the city once the account is empty or closed. In the worst cases, horrifically, the bodies of the victims are found clad in bloody sheets with their abdomens cut open and their organs removed. Body parts for sale is apparently a Craigslist category down there.”

Despite such fears and anxieties, Chris continues in his quest, getting mixed up in situations he later regrets, while Ebby continually tells him to leave Internet dating alone. Chris eventually learns his lesson, but perhaps not quite the lesson one would expect.

Imperfect Heroes is a lot of fun to read, but it is more than that. It is a masterfully plotted romantic comedy, and comedy of the best kind, that not only makes us laugh, but makes us think. It gets to the heart of our deepest fears about being alone; it realizes the desperation we will sometimes act upon to find and keep that one person we believe is perfect for us; it may bring some readers to tears, and yet in the end, it brings a cathartic release. To say it has a happy ending is perhaps not giving anything away; to say that what Chris has to go through to get to his happy ending is going to surprise and entertain readers throughout this wild rollercoaster ride is an understatement. This book simply has to be read to be appreciated and understood for how well an author can depict the human condition in its best and worst forms and still offer hope to readers.

I found Imperfect Heroes extremely difficult to put down. In fact, I thought about it a lot whenever I was doing other things, and I eagerly returned to it as quickly as possible. Now that I have finished reading it, I know its characters will stay with me for a long time to come. Crazy as some of the characters are, almost all of them become loveable for their frail humanity, and as good fiction should do, the novel left this reader feeling a bit wiser and more compassionate toward his fellow human beings.

For more information about D.J. Kelley and Imperfect Heroes, visit

About Tyler Tichelaar

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