Book Review: Romance strikes in 'Maybe Once, Maybe Twice' with quirky lines and an epic soundtrack

On Maggie Vine’s 30th birthday, she makes a marriage pact with her handsome best friend

Donna Edwards
Monday 02 October 2023 17:47 BST
Book Review - Maybe Once, Maybe Twice
Book Review - Maybe Once, Maybe Twice

On Maggie Vine’s 30th birthday, she makes a marriage pact with the handsome, broad-shouldered, sunbeam-smile-having Garrett Scholl. Thing is, the struggling singer-songwriter had already made a similar deal with her first boyfriend, Asher Reyes, who’s now an extremely successful — and attractive — actor. Thus the two great loves of Maggie's life come crashing back to her at 35.

Alison Rose Greenberg’s second novel, “Maybe Once, Maybe Twice,” is a long, luscious buildup of will-they-won’t-they, love-triangling, song-writing, and trips down memory lane as the narrative hops back to teen Maggie and 20-something Maggie to flesh out her past.

Greenberg writes exceptional characters who still fit into the ordinary world, like our protagonist. Maggie Vine is the chic, All The Feels, folk-singing heroine we wanted but secretly didn’t believe could exist so tastefully. She's got humor and sorrow, pride and doubt, good moments and bad, and a model-gorgeous, standoffish-yet-lovable best friend for a sidekick.

Maggie wants it all: love, a kid, and a career. And, honestly, why can't she have it?

When Maggie learns that Asher will be co-producing a film adaptation of her favorite novel, it could be the key to unlocking all her dreams. She can reconnect with Asher, prove herself as the best musician to write the songs for it, and, with the kind of money she'd make on a movie deal like that, she could start a family.

Greenberg’s style is sharp and funny, with quirky lines like “Stop trying to make me fall in love with Dave Matthews!” and “Progressive grandmas are national treasures.”

For as fun as the story is, you can almost forget that it still takes place in an insidious industry that often uses women's bodies and minds for the gains of the men at the top. Except Maggie can't forget.

After more than 100 pages, we get the name of the man who had dangled a career in front of her before ripping it apart: Cole Wyan.

The tone turns downright ominous surrounding this Chekhov’s gun of a man who we readers hope against all hope doesn’t find his way back into the pages of this book.

But Greenberg doesn't leave us hanging in despair. Maggie Vine always chooses hope, and finally, FINALLY, maybe it’s possible that a woman does all the right things and actually comes out better for it; rewarded for fighting back and going to therapy and telling the truth.

Ripe for a super-meta film adaptation (about the novel about a film adaptation of a novel), “Maybe Once, Maybe Twice” is everything you want in a smart romantic comedy: deep, tear-inducing emotions; sharp, sardonic humor; steamy sex scenes played by even steamier leads; and an epic soundtrack underneath it all.

Musically, it's hands-down five stars, complete with an accompanying playlist on Spotify. Musical mentions range from Dolly Parton to Fall Out Boy to Olivia Rodrigo. And, of course, Stevie Nicks — the novel’s very title is an homage to the great musical prowess of the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer.

The story wraps up quickly — a sudden halt at the end of a roller coaster that leaves you wondering what that ending really means, and whether lightning strikes three times.

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