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'The Big Love'

What would you do if the person you lived with went to the grocery store during a dinner party at your home, only to call an hour later to say that he or she is going back to the ex?

That's how we meet Alison Hopkins, a 32-year-old newspaper columnist in Sarah Dunn's charming first novel, "The Big Love."

Dunn visits The Saturday Early Show to talk about her book and the transition from her successful career as television sitcom writer.

After Hopkins is unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend, Dunn's heroine lets her hair down as she explores the depths of love in the modern age.

Read an excerpt from Chapter One:

TO BE FAIR TO HIM, THERE IS PROBABLY NO WAY THAT TOM could have left that would have made me happy. As it turns out, I'm in no mood to be fair to him, but I will do my best to be accurate. It was the last weekend in September. We were having a dinner party. Our guests were about to arrive. I ran out of Dijon mustard, which I needed for the sauce for the chicken, and so I sent my boyfriend, Tom—my "live-in" boyfriend, Tom, as my mother always called him—off to the grocery store to get some. "Don't get the spicy kind," was, I'm pretty sure, what I said to him right before he left, because one of the people coming over was my best friend, Bonnie, who happened to be seven months pregnant at the time, and spicy food makes Bonnie sweat even more than usual, and I figured that the last thing my dinner party needed was an enormous pregnant woman with a case of the flop sweats. It turned out, though, that that was not the last thing my dinner party needed. The last thing my dinner party needed was what actually happened: an hour after he left, Tom called from a pay phone to tell me to go ahead without him, he wasn't coming back, he didn't have the mustard, and oh, by the way, he was in love with somebody else.

And we had company! I was raised in such a way that you didn't do anything weird or impolite or even remotely human when you had company, which is the only way I can explain what I did next. I calmly poked my head into the living room and said, "Bonnie, can you come into the kitchen for a second?"

Bonnie waddled into the kitchen.

"Where's Tom?" Bonnie said.

"He's not coming," I said.

"Why not?" she said.

"I don't know," I said.

"What do you mean, you don't know?"

"He said he's not coming home. I think he just broke up with me."

"Over the phone? That's impossible," Bonnie said. "What were his exact words?"

I told her.

"Oh my God, he said that?" she said. "Are you sure?"

I burst into tears.

"Well, that is completely unacceptable," Bonnie said. She hugged me hard. "It's unforgivable."

And it was unforgivable, truly it was. What made it unforgivable, as far as I was concerned, was not merely that Tom had ended a four-year-long relationship with no warning, or that he had done so over the telephone, or even that he had done it in the middle of a dinner party, but also this: the man had hung up before I had a chance to say so much as a single word in reply. That, it seemed to me, was almost inconceivable. What made it unforgivable as far as Bonnie was concerned was that she was sure the whole thing was nothing more than a ploy of Tom's to keep from having to propose to me anytime soon. She actually articulated this theory while we were still hugging, thinking it would calm me down. "Men are trying to avoid getting married," Bonnie said to me. "It doesn't look fun to them." She stroked my hair. "Their friends who are married look beaten down."

As if on cue, Bonnie's husband Larry walked into the kitchen with a striped dishrag tucked into the waistband of his pants, carrying two plates of chicken marsala. Larry was very proud of his work with the chicken. When Tom hadn't shown up on time with the mustard, Larry came up with the marsala concept, and made it by picking the mushrooms out of the salad. One thing I will tell you about Larry is that he cheated on Bonnie when they were dating, he cheated on her left and right in fact, but now here he was, father of two, maker of chicken marsala, the very picture of domestic tranquillity. He was beaten down, maybe; but he was beaten down and faithful.

"Tom's not coming," Bonnie said to Larry. "He says he's in love with somebody else."

"Who is he in love with?" Larry asked.

I knew who he was in love with, of course. I hadn't even bothered to ask. He was in love with Kate Pearce. And I knew it! I knew it! Bonnie knew it too—I could tell by the look on her face. Bonnie and I had been conferring on the subject of Tom's old college girlfriend Kate for quite some time, actually—ever since she had invited Tom out for the first of what would turn out to be a series of friendly little lunches, an event which incidentally happened to coincide with Bonnie's acquisition of a Hands Free telephone headset. I mention the Hands Free telephone headset only because once she got it, pretty much all Bonnie wanted to do was talk on the phone.

Excerpted from "The Big Love." Copyright © 2004 by Sarah Dunn. Excerpted by permission of Time Warner Books. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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