3 out of 4 stars
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Sue, a high school English teacher in Queens, posts an ad. Though she is young, beautiful, and athletic, her kidneys have begun to fail and she desperately needs a kidney transplant that is compatible with her rare blood type. In return for a viable kidney, she promises the donor one year of free sex. Josh, a 30-year-old computer programmer, is enticed by the curious offer and responds to the ad. The two meet to discuss a “contract.” Josh finds Sue stunningly gorgeous and intriguing. He cannot believe his luck but has reservations about jumping into this situation. A visit to his doctor confirms that Josh is in tip-top shape and a good candidate to donate a kidney to Sue. Will this be the heaven he thinks it will be? Could there be any regrets?
The Contract by P.A. Hempel is a book unlike any other I’ve ever read. Its topic leaves plenty of room for contemplation and reflection. The influential themes of existentialism, esteem, and regret coupled with the consequences for one’s choices make this a satisfying read. The text on the cover, “Jean-Paul Satre, meet Erica Jong” definitely rings true in this piece. Sartre’s ideas of freedom and the power of choice are seen in the characters’ wistful thoughts and actions. Likewise, Jong’s ideas of feminism are also on display throughout the book.
The best part of this story was the unexpected depth of introspect shown by the main characters as the plot unfolded. In the heat of the moment, choices are made. Consequences follow. In the beginning chapters, the story felt a little idle and the development of the characters seemed unfinished. I liked the characters but did not feel connected to them. Towards the middle of the book, though, themes emerged, and the characters became more relatable. There was also considerable humor in the book. Ironically, this humor added a bit of realism to the story, and I enjoyed the wit of the author. Readers must read the book all the way to the end to fully appreciate the depth of this story; the cohesiveness of the themes is not evident in the opening chapters and is quite unexpected.
Other than the somewhat one-dimensional beginning of the book, I have no dislikes about this story. The book’s superb editing is also worth mentioning, as I only found one very minor error. The physical layout of the book is attractive and organized; the chapters are perfect in length and have catchy, relevant titles. For the slightly slow beginning and limited character development in the first few chapters, I deduct one star from the rating and give The Contract 3 out of 4 stars.
I recommend this book to mature readers who are looking for a short read that centers on relationships. Younger adults will appreciate the author’s use of themes and humor and will find them relevant to their lives. It should be noted that there are many explicit sexual descriptions, along with moderate profanity throughout the story. Readers sensitive to this should not read this book.
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