For someone searching for that other person who doesn’t push her buttons, doesn’t force her out of her comfort zone to confront uncomfortable emotions, the hero of The Best Worst Man by Mia Sosa is the worst person with whom to be involved.
Carolina “Lina” Santos is a Brazilian American wedding planner to DC professionals. She works incredibly long hours with meticulous precision to manage myriad details to give her clients their happy-ever-afters. Her business is successful. But she, herself, was jilted by her fiancé on their wedding day. The culprit was her fiancé’s younger brother, Max, who convinced him out of marrying her.
Max Hartley works for his mother’s company, which is a one-stop shop for marketing, publicity and branding services in Virginia. His life has been ruled since childhood with his rivalry with his older “perfect” brother, Andrew, who can never put a foot wrong as far as other people are concerned. Only between them, they both know that many of the innovative ideas originate with Max. Even when Andrew isn’t around, he is wreaking havoc in his life. The only time he has ever listened to Max was the night before his wedding, convincing Max that Andrew just wasn’t ready to marry Lina after all.
For financial reasons, Lina is looking to expand her business, and her dream job is to be the wedding planner for a family-own small chain of boutique hotels. However, when she arrives for a preliminary introduction, she finds out that she is going to be competing for the job with another candidate. Each of them is being assigned a marketing associate and each pair will have a few weeks to come up with a winning package showcasing the planner’s talents and expertise.
In order to prove to his mother that he is fully capable of handling the marketing campaign for an important client on his own, Max is eager to work with the owner of a small chain of hotels to finesse her plans.
Imagine Lina’s horror when she walks into the boardroom and come face-to-face with her ex-fiancé and Max. Luckily, she is to work with Max, but that is like choosing to dance with the devil or his henchman, and the henchman is extremely reluctant.
I loved seeing Lina with her family and the closeness they all share. Sosa has done a well-researched job of showing an extended Brazilian immigrant family and their food, language and culture — I loved learning about it. It was wonderful also to see how Max embraces Brazilian culture the closer he gets to Lina — he wants to know her in her entirety and her family and culture are such a huge part of her.
Despite being competent at their demanding jobs, Lina and Max start out as emotionally young people. Sosa then shows how they mature over the course of the book. Max breaks away from his deadlocked situation with his older brother, as he gains confidence in his abilities to manage his life, work and relationships, on his own.
The best part of the book is Lina’s emotional growth, where she starts being able to be true to her emotions and not repressing them. Repressed emotions have a way of damaging the psyche in untold ways and they have a tendency to leak out in unexpected ways. Constantly forcing herself to “hold it together” and “present a blank face” has taken its toll on her, personally, and is affecting her business because clients feel that she is unrelatable. Thus seizing ownership for her emotional makeup and being comfortable with who she is, represents tremendous courage on her part and is really the heart of this story.
I finished reading the book yesterday and ended up at a Brazilian restaurant for dinner. This book will make you hungry. If you are interested in immigration stories and about two professional people discovering their emotional maturity as they journey together, this is the book for you.