Set in London, Carole Matthews’ Bare Necessity is the story of Emily Miller, a thirty-something high school teacher whose world has crumbled after finding out that her boyfriend of five years, Declan, has posted a scantily clad picture of her on the Internet. After leaving Declan and moving in with her strange but supportive friend Cara, Emily’s life further deteriorates when she is fired from her teaching position and she discovers that Declan has dragged her into almost $100,000 worth of debt. Left with no money, no job and few options to regain her life, Emily searches for meaning and for the path that she needs to take to recovery (and possibly the man of her dreams).
Matthews creates a sympathetic character in Emily, and the reader finds it incredibly easy to root for this spunky, kind woman whose life has been demolished. On the flip side, Matthews differentiates herself from other "chick-lit" authors by also taking a look at the other side: the man’s perspective. Although the story is told in the first person by Emily, we are also treated to nearly the same amount of introspection (albeit in the third person) from Adam, the man who Emily just may belong with. Matthews proves that she’s not only adept at portraying a likeable and realistic female lead, but she also has talent in creating an equally interesting and sympathetic male character. Although the two do not meet throughout most of the book, the reader knows that forces are pulling the two together.
Matthews is slightly less successful in developing Cara, Emily’s best friend and roommate. Cara’s behavior is uneven and she becomes less likeable throughout the book. This would not be a big problem except that Emily, who is kind and trusting throughout, does not even react when Cara all but stabs her in the back -- more than once. It would make sense if Emily and Cara had a falling out because of Cara’s behavior, but the storyline between the two takes a backseat to the romance aspect and is all but forgotten in the end. As the book has just as much to do with Emily and Cara’s friendship as it does with the burgeoning romantic relationships, the neglect of it makes the book seem less complete.
Bare Necessity is a fine example of a light, entertaining book that allows the readers to escape into a slightly nicer world where love at first sight exists and dreams really do come true. You’ll enjoy the time you spend with Emily and Adam and will find yourself cheering them on, as if they were both old friends.