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Love Virtually is a new take on fantasy vs. reality
Love Virtually

‘Love Virtually’

Written by: Daniel Glattauer

Price: $13.44

Rating: Three out of five bookmarks

While the Internet allows us access to information and communication worldwide, it is arguable it has also contaminated our ability to interact with others in person. The Internet is a place where we can choose to remain anonymous, and even create imaginative alter-egos. Thus we can live out secret fantasies, speak openly without negative repercussions and share private friendships, even romances, with people that may or may not be what they claim.

It can be a seductive virtual paradise and a dangerous digital delusion, making us want to escape the dull routine of our real lives to nearly desperate extremes.

In Daniel Glattauer’s "Love Virtually," the two protagonists face a conundrum: Do they want to continue a passionate fantasy that can only survive in the virtual world, or take an uncertain leap into reality that could end their fabricated love forever?

"Love Virtually," already a literary success in Europe and due for release in the U.S. in April, is written as a series of email exchanges between charismatic Leo and witty Emmi. The two begin their interactions when Emmi’s attempt to cancel a magazine subscription goes to Leo’s email address by mistake, and Leo’s reply initiates a parley that both realize they enjoy and want to continue.

Soon, the friendly banter starts to evolve into flirtations, then personal confessions, and then an ever-growing desire to meet in person — and whatever events may follow. But Emmi is a "happily married" woman with two children, and Leo is still in an on-again, off-again relationship with an old girlfriend.

Both begin to realize how much they need each other, but is it just the fantasy they both want or are there true feelings behind their online affair? Would finally meeting in person destroy the relationship they covet so dearly, or will it be the culmination of their fated correspondence?

"Love Virtually" is more a character study than anything else, as we gradually learn more about Leo and Emmi through their emails. Both characters find out they live in the same town, but the prospect of meeting terrifies them. Emmi worries Leo will turn out to be different from how she visualizes him, and Leo is wary of possibly falling for Emmi even though she is already "spoken for."

Emmi and Leo feel safe as long as they only spout their sentiments of adoration online, since there is no physical evidence, no witnesses and no guilty actions.

Yet if both of them can sense a real life "date" harbors danger, a possibility of taking things too far, then is the fantasy really so harmless? Does it only feed their unsatisfied desires even more until it can only lead to the inevitable?

Glattauer provides an absorbing account of the struggle between emotions and logic, which very often are at war with each other when it comes to matters of the heart.

The presentation of the novel, in the form of the email chats, is fun and makes the pacing quick and steady. Neither of the characters ever resorts to chatroom slang or abbreviations, so it allows us to read the story more like a spoken dialogue than a text message.

Unfortunately, and it might be due to the book’s translation into English, often I felt like Leo’s and Emmi’s discourses read very similarly, which made it tricky at times to distinguish their separate personalities. I suppose one could interpret this as the two of them being on the same wavelength, and it does make for some humorous moments when one of them breaks from their usual pattern and blurts out (or types out) something unexpected.

"Love Virtually" is a good platform for several debates, particularly how the Internet may be affecting our communicative mannerisms and how it might be altering our perception of people in reality.

While the story has very little action and the tension relies solely on the possibility of an encounter between two normal people, it is in its simplicity that we see very human, honest characters at their most vulnerable, and we see that sometimes the only truths we like are the ones disguised in a pretty lie.

Alison Reeger Cook is a Gainesville resident whose Off the Shelves book review appears every other week in Sunday Life. Know of a good book to review? Email her to tell her about it.

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