April & Oliver: A Novel

By Tess Callahan
Publisher:Grand Central Publishing, (6/3/2009)

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.75 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)

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Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April's brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April - and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to "save" his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own--secrets he hasn't shared with anyone, even his fiancé. But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April's life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral...towards salvation.
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Alice_Wonder's thoughts on "April & Oliver: A Novel"
updated on:12/13/2009

Very Unleashable

romance reviewer's thoughts on "April & Oliver: A Novel"
updated on:12/7/2009

Since my first review vanished, this will be much more brief. This book falls neatly between the real romance genre (not the bodice ripping/fabio type, but that with buidling sexual tension and for those seeking the HEA ending) and contemporary fiction that explores a range of topics, including some that are not too comfortable. I like romance and I enjoyed the pain of wanting what was unattainable, both in the love story and even the need and desire to fit into a "normal/happy" mold but all the characters who were well fleshed out, beleivable. While the nuerosis in April was evident from the start, and interesting thing took place, a see-saw effect as Oliver descends further into despair as April begins to emerge from her grief. Bernadette too struggles her own battles, appearing to have it fully together, she contributes to her own loss by seeking to live in denial. The juxtapositoin between current day and character memories was executed with talent and precision. I love romance, but I appreciate a deeper read as well and I feel this author delivered both. The ending was powerful...it took my breath away. That's all I can say...not one more word.

Very Unleashable

Unscribbler's thoughts on "April & Oliver: A Novel"
updated on:12/7/2009

Mildly Unleashable

Sam's thoughts on "April & Oliver: A Novel"
updated on:12/2/2009

Ok, I'll admit it. Once in a while I like to indulge in an ultra-girly, romantic novel, preferably one that requires little brain power, and predictably ends happily. Don’t judge me – it’s a harmless guilty pleasure. April and Oliver kind of calmed that desire for a bit. While it was a little darker than some of the chick lit I’ve read, it is chick lit nonetheless. The heated relationship between the two title characters is muddied by molestation, abuse, and nearly incestuous associations. Trust me; there is no shortage of crisis here. If you like your romance novels a little crooked and chock full of bad decisions, then give April and Oliver a shot. I won’t promise that it ends happily. I’m not even sure what “happy” means after finishing this book.

Mildly Unleashable

Reese's thoughts on "April & Oliver: A Novel"
updated on:12/1/2009

April & Oliver, it rolls off the tongue doesn't it....well in the book we are just waiting for them to roll around! The two are inseparable childhood friends who become somewhat strangers again during Oliver's college and early work years and then they reconnect in grief over the loss of April's brother. April is the resident wild child with the past of abuse and consistent bad choices and Oliver is the good, engaged to another women!, protective help the girl I can't have guy. It all sounds trite...but it actually was a good story with compelling characters. The tension between the two was steady throughout the book and kept you wondering when it would all break open. While that also made the plot a tad bit predictable, all of the characters and their stories of love and loss are what makes it work. (With a sidebar here that I didn't like at all the not telling Nana about Buddy)..which of course backfired in the end. While April kept her distance and Oliver struggled with what was and could be - in the end the two found a certain peace for themselves. Don't expect the typical ending though..it is not your romantic happy wrap up..but it does leave you to imagine...which I liked.

Very Unleashable

Book Junky's thoughts on "April & Oliver: A Novel"
updated on:12/1/2009

Oh what a life our Miss April has had! She is definitely a survivor and it was fun to watch her strength and self pride develop as the story went a long. Delving into the dynamics of family and relationship, 'April and Oliver' is a testament to the importance of family, honesty, and having each other's back. My emotions and what I wanted to see happen at the end of the book kept going back and forth between several options. (What a great conflict to ride.) So my only wish is that the book did not end as it did. I actually think I would have preferred a "Choose your own adventure" ending with like three different scenarios to fit your mood.... 1. April and Oliver get together. 2. Oliver stays with Bernadette 3. Oh, I have so many thoughts I could put here, but they would reveal way too much about the book. So I will refrain. It is fun to think about the possibilities!

Unleash it

Ceci's thoughts on "April & Oliver: A Novel"
updated on:11/30/2009

Zzzzzzz. Seriously, April, what are you thinking?? Zzzzzzzz. I think that pretty much sums this one up for me! There is a good nugget of a story in April and Oliver, but the plot is pretty thin and I found April herself to be a superficial and ultimately disappointing exploration of a woman burdened by her history of sexual and physical abuse. These are obviously distressing and sympathetic circumstances, but other than this painful history, little is provided to explain why those who love April go along with her self-destructive behavior . . . much less why everyone, especially Oliver, is so darned enamored with her. As a result, while reading, I alternated between boredom, because so little was happening with the story, and frustration with April and those around her. Some of the supporting characters are more compelling: I would have enjoyed a book about “Nana & Al,” more than this one, I think.

Do not Unleash

Nick's thoughts on "April & Oliver: A Novel"
updated on:11/29/2009

Whoever says this is not a "romance" is wrong! It's all the longing and skin heating up as people get near each other aspects of a romance. Ok, I'll clarify - it's a romance with some SERIOUS family dynamics going on. The whole "they are cousins, but not" is a bit twisted, but it adds that forbidden element that the vampires seem to have a death grip on lately. There are some interesting past issues of the characters that are being dealt with, but over all - the "Chic Lit Alert" is going off, Baby! I will say, the best character for me has to be Nana though. She actually seems to have the most interesting character history, and you can see why the whole family is so dedicated to her. It's an easy read, but... next time give me Nana's story instead of the "victim girl, suppressed love story" please.

Mildly Unleashable

"April & Oliver: A Novel"
By Tess Callahan

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.75 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)

The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.

Reader's Guide from BookBundlz


In the beginning of the book, April mentions a dream about a "a man who shut up all the doors and windows of his house, not realizing that the tiger he was trying to keep out was in his own basement." Later she mentions a dream with a little girl with black hair and the most amazing blue eyes playing on the beach. What do these dreams reveal about April? What significance do you feel dreams have on your life?


Why do you feel April went back to T.J. after filing a restraining order? Did it have anything to do with the fact that Oliver was back in town?


T.J. is haunted by a past relationship with Denise. April is haunted by her past relationships with her father and Quincy. Oliver is haunted by his past relationship with April. Are we all just 'slightly haunted' and holding on to unresolved things from the past? How would their lives have been different if they dealt with their feeling in the past instead of holding on to them? Are you still haunted by anything from your past?


When April goes to Oliver and Bernadette's barbecue she arrives in a cantaloupe mini-mini skirt and with a man that even makes her uncomfortable. As she notices other's disapproval, she thinks, " What the hell... She's here now. This is happening. She might as well play the part." Is she playing a part in other areas of her life? How does her part change as the story progresses? Do you ever feel like you are playing a part? 


While talking with Nana, (p. 137) April laments, "If I could change anything, I wouldn't want a guy. I'd want to live alone somewhere in a small town where no one knows me. All by myself." Yet her life is completely opposite of that. What do you think stops her from pursuing that ideal?


April gives Oliver and Bernadette a hand carved antique hourglass for a shower gift and an antique mirror for a wedding gift. What is the significance of the two gifts?


p. 172 April comments, "... Addiction is just a way of trying to get at something else. Something bigger... We all want the same thing. We all have this hole. The thing you want offers relief, but it's a trap..." Is there truth to that statement? Do we use things/drama/alcohol to get something else? If so, what? What does April get from being addicted to abuse?


What did you think of Bernadette's plan to rid Oliver of his thoughts of April? Is it a good plan, or do you think she should have taken another approach?


Why do you feel Oliver stopped playing the piano?


Nana tells April (p.213) "You need to start doing what is uncomfortable for you, April. Because your idea of what feels right took a left turn somewhere." What makes you uncomfortable to think about doing? Should you maybe do it anyway? How would your life change if you did?


When April chooses a dog, she (of course) chooses the mutt. What role does Dubious play in April's life? How does he change it?


P. 254 When told she might 'fall in love' April comments, "People use that expression as if it's something that happens involuntary, like getting clubbed by a caveman." Is falling in love involuntary? 


p. 286, April and Nana contemplate how a kiss can change you. Like if all your life you are yellow and then you brush up against something blue and you are forever turned to green. Does a kiss have the power to do that? Has that ever happened to you?


p. 291 Oliver thinks, "It's normal to feel sadness; marriage is as much letting go of the past as it is embracing the future." Is that true?


Was it right of Bernadette to break off the wedding for the reason(s) that she did?


What do YOU think or want to happen next?

Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
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From Publishers Weekly
In this memorable debut, Callahan offers a uniquely funereal love story that focuses on a stagnant friendship-turned-untenable romance between unlikely life-long friends. To deal with the death of her immediate family, as well as the scars of childhood abuse, April assumes the role of the jaded wild child; Oliver, her once-inseparable childhood companion, has become her polar opposite, an engaged law student poised for success. Estranged during Oliver's college years, the two reconnect with troubling results. Callahan's descriptions are vivid, and often paired with charming flashbacks to more innocent times, providing stark contrast to the tumultuous course of April and Oliver's young-adult lives. Callahan's narrative takes some supporting-character detours from the principles' love-hate relationship, including an abusive boyfriend; a manipulative and dangerous family friend, and April's strong-but-slipping Nana. Callahan's poetic style and grasp of emotion gives proper weight to April's loss and Oliver's secrets, and is sure to engage, sadden, and enthrall readers, especially in a bittersweet, somewhat surprising finale. 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

From The Washington Post
From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Carrie Brown Tess Callahan's first novel, "April & Oliver," offers up young lovers who are all bad timing and botched encounters and smoldering passion. Childhood friends, the two are separated by time and an unhappy shared history, but they come together again when April's beloved younger brother dies in a car accident. By then, unfortunately, there is another woman in the picture; decent Oliver, who is in law school, is engaged to Bernadette, who teaches disabled children with saintly joy, but it is troubled and troubling April whom Oliver can't forget. With her unstudied sexiness, vulnerability and intelligence, April exerts an irresistible attraction: She's a girl in need of protection from her own grief and bad choices, and Oliver wants desperately to help her. In trying to persuade us of the caliber of this couple's response to each other, Callahan's prose is occasionally overwrought. There's a little too much electricity rippling across skin, a little too much warmth radiating from thighs. Oliver's jaw is chiseled, and April smells sometimes like the sea, sometimes like "grass after heavy rain." At one point, Oliver's eyes are described as "luminous as glacial ice, those radiant cobalt crevices lit from within." This kind of description focuses our attention on the least complicated (and, in the end, least interesting) aspect of love: its superficial thrill. When Oliver's brother says impatiently, "Just get it out of your systems already. It's only sex, you know," we're inclined to agree with him. But Callahan wants the couple's attraction to be about more than sex. April and Oliver are also soul mates, and many readers will find their bumpy road compelling, a sensitive and emotional account of two people grappling with the complicated force of mutual attraction when it strikes the right people at the wrong time. 
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. 

I'm sorry to report that since APRIL & OLIVER is Tess Callahan's debut as a novelist, an immediate regret awaits all readers on the last page of this enormously sagacious and compelling book, to wit: that it's done, finished, consumed; that there are as yet no other Callahan novels to devour, and heaven only knows how long we must wait for the author's next work to reach our greedy hands. The urgency of Callahan's narrative and its volatile juxtapositions--innocent passion and dark sexuality; duty and desire; first love and ruined love--make it impossible not to care deeply for these characters and their thwarted yearning and their heart-wrenching stories.

-Bob Shacochis, National Book Award-winning author of Easy in the Islands

Grappling fates are the DNA of suspense, and Tess Callahan braids loss, longing, romance and violence into a tense, gratifying narrative. The characters in APRIL & OLIVER feel inexorable--either destined or doomed to be together. The need to discover which--and how--keeps the reader turning pages.

-Sven Birkerts, author of Reading Life: Books for the Ages 
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A painter, teacher and mother of twins, Tess Callahan has written for CottonwoodThe Stylus Anthology: 1950-2000The Boston College Magazine, New YorkNewsday and elsewhere through syndication. When not exploring the complex motivations of intriguing characters (in her personal life and in her work), she finds nourishment and sustenance in periodic travels to wild, austere landscapes around the world. Tess has an MFA in Fiction from Bennington College. April & Oliver is her first novel.

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Truth be told, this was not much of a wine kind of book. So we are deviating from our normal MO of choosing 3 wines for our wine off. Instead, in honor of April's bartending background, we asked our staff, "What kind of drink would you want April to mix up for you?"

Here is what they had to say... 


Sam's Pick: Dark and Stormy
A fitting description of April and Oliver's relationship. It is a cocktail made with dark rum and ginger beer. Pretty fantastic!


Ceci's Pick: 7&7, but modified
... with top shelf whiskey which isn't really 7&7 anymore but whiskey and sevenup sounds so boring.


Nick's Pick: Southern Comfort, Old-Fashioned Sweet with Olives
I am sure April could make a mean one, but the best place to get one is at Stones Throw in Hatfield, WI!!! See you there soon!


Reese's Pick: Long Island Iced Tea
How can something so yummy, be so dangerous? How fitting for the book!


The Book Junky's Pick: I still wants me red wine!
Forget the mixed drink, savor the wine! Plus, I'd rather the Wine Guy pour me a drink then April anyway. ;)

Wanna get your wine on with the Book Junky? Here are some tried and true wine picks from our Wine Guy:

d'Arenberg 2008 Stump Jump Shiraz - Syrah/Shiraz Red Wine

J. Lohr 2007 Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon - Red Wine

Clos du Bois 2005 Chardonnay - White Wine

Don't forget, if you sign up for wine.com's "Steward-Ship" shipping program, you pay $49 and get unlimited shipping for a year!
This deal rocks!!!

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