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In the 1970s, Joan Halprin put off a career, spending her 20s as an office temp to support her extensive traveling and adventures. Now in her mid-30s, with the swinging seventies long past, she decides that it’s time to get serious. She lands a job as a copywriter for a small Fort Lauderdale advertising agency. Even with the typical office drama, including a miserly and unappreciative boss and irritating co-workers, she’s determined to prove herself. After all, her romantic life is over.

Joan’s earlier adventures didn’t leave her unscathed. The AIDS virus had not yet been discovered, or at least publicized, but she had contracted a sexually transmitted disease that ostracized its victims. Her mother regarded it as her “weapon.” And, at the time, there was no effective medicine to control outbreaks. Yes, it was herpes—the “H-word.”

  
 
Whenever Joan meets a man, she ends it before she’d have to divulge her secret. But just as she’s finally getting used to living a life of solitude, finding comfort in coming home and simply relaxing with no fear of being judged, she meets a man with whom she could get serious. Is it worth telling him—and, if so, how would he take it?

Actually, herpes is only one issue in this story. As I read the book, I had to keep reminding myself of the words in the book’s title “A Novel,” since it seemed like I was reading a memoir. It’s an amusing but very personal story that most readers will be able to relate to on some level. For me, it was the office politics—dealing with competitive personalities and demanding bosses, enduring the fact that others are taking credit for your work while you come in every day with a smile on your face. For some, it may be Joan’s relationship with her parents. For others, it could be hiding a deep secret that could ruin a relationship.

In only 126 pages, Dinerman is able to convey all of these issues and give the characters depth without missing anything or making the reader feeling rushed. This could have easily been expanded into a full-length novel, and I feel it would have also worked—though maybe with a different ending.

H is the perfect summer escape. If you want a quick, personal, but fun read that’s full of dark humor, then this is the perfect novel for you.

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