Backstory Book Review: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

ArrangedI’m a member of The Happy Hour Book Club. Each time I get an email notification about a new Meetup, I get excited. I think ‘Maybe I’ll actually attend this one’. Without fail, something inevitably makes me change my mind. The book club meeting is clear on the other side of town and The Hero needs the car. The book club is clear on the other side of town after work when I want to do nothing but go home. It’s on the other side of town on a Saturday. (Are you getting that I don’t particularly like going on the other side of town?). It’s on my side of town, but the book doesn’t interest me at all (read: Vanity Fair). As a result, I consider myself a book club lurker. I get book suggestions without doing anything.

Anyway, Arranged is the book for February. Who knows what I’ll be doing in February, but I felt like reading so I figured why not just get ‘er done early?

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie


The book is about Anne Blythe’s unsuccessful attempts to find Mr. Right. After the last break up with Mr. Dark Hair Blue Eyes, she realizes that she goes for the same type ALL the time and ends up getting the short end of the stick. When her best friend Sarah gets engaged, it’s the last straw. She goes to Blythe & Company – no connection – to sign up for what she thinks is a dating service. She soon learns that the agency arranges marriages. Deciding that she is incapable of seeing past a man’s looks to choose her Mr. Right, she gives it a chance and is matched to Jack, a guy who is distinctly not her ‘type’ physically, but in all other ways according to the agency. During a week retreat in Mexico, Anne and Jack get married, but a few months after returning home things go south.

This is a chick flick waiting to happen. It was an easy read (I finished it in about two days). I’m not sure if I thought it was okay because it was about arranged marriage, something I know nothing about, or because it was actually a good book.

McKenzie did a good job getting me invested in Anne, but not with any other character in the book. She gives just enough information about Anne’s best friend Sarah, her brother Gil, her boss William and her new husband Jack, but not enough to feel connected to any of those characters. It left me thinking that if Anne had some authentic people in her life she could have made a pretty good choice for a husband on her own.

I also don’t like having no idea where the story takes place outside of Mexico. It’s one of my pet peeves. We assume a city with a decent public transportation system. Is it New York? Chicago? Gotham City? Metropolis? I just don’t know and it bugs me throughout the book. Actually, the lack of detail is one of the reasons I’m giving the book 3.5 stars.

The other reason is the issue of timing. I’m still undecided if I like the way McKenzie handles it. I like getting to the point, but it sometimes felt rushed or too… easy. It made Anne seem a little clueless. I think McKenzie could have used more pages to develop the other characters since the main idea of the story is so basic.

Overall, it’s a quick read and a good companion during commutes. If you are a fan of chick flicks, I highly recommend it. If you’re looking for more complexity, pass this one up.


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