Eat, Pray, Love: Panic, Stress, Parent: A review of For You I Would Make an Exception by Steven Belletto

Reviewed by Dr Nicholas Havey

For You I Would Make an Exception
by Steven Belletto
Vine Leaves Press
October 2023, Paperback, 280pp, ISBN-13: 978-3988320247

What would you do if someone emailed you out of the blue claiming to be your long lost child trapped in Africa? You’d probably just report the email as spam and move on with your life, right? Will Sorley didn’t. In For You I Would Make An Exception, he responds to that email. And his life is turned upside down.

A cynical college professor bored with the small town life he lives in rural Pennsylvania, Will Sorley’s main concern is whether Angie, his most recent girlfriend, could be the one. That is until he’s contacted by Petra, the daughter he never knew about. She’s in danger in Kenya and needs his help. ‘If you are him (he?),’ she writes, ‘I am hereby informing you that you have a daughter.’ And away we go.

A sort of more stressful Eat, Pray, Love, Steven Belletto’s For You I Would Make An Exception follows Will as he meets his daughter, rekindles his not-quite-a-friendship with her mother, and travels the world. His first pitstop is Kenya, where Petra has made it seem as if she is being held captive. Angie and Will quickly travel to the remote town she was living in, only to find her gone and them in the care of their landlord, a charming woman who cooks a great meal. Next Will is off to India, leaving Angie to return home. In India, Will’s time with his daughter, Petra, and her mother, a long-ago passionate fling that ended in disappointment for Will, highlights how obligations– such as keeping your child safe– give life much-needed meaning.

Throughout, characters are fun, witty, and engaging, with Petra and her white lies a stand-out. Audra, Petra’s mother and Will’s ex, has provided an exciting life but Petra just wants her dad. Family dynamics, including a somewhat contentious game of scrabble, ensue. The result is a weird but enjoyable romp that contains a (perhaps unintentional) commentary on American capitalism, neoimperialism, and how the wants of a white girl self-possessed are somehow paramount everywhere while simultaneously highlighting the simple joy that comes from sharing life with others. I normally take umbrage with the somewhat absurd plot points that abound but for you, Steven Belletto, I’ll make an exception.

About the reviewer: Dr Nicholas Havey is Director of Institutional Research at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, a thriller and mystery writer, and a lover of all fiction. His work has appeared in the Washington Independent Review of Books, Lambda Literary, and a number of peer-reviewed journals.