Wednesday, May 30, 2012

boy meets girl/boy sleeps with other girl

"Carly spends her days at a spa (okay, so she owns the place), she's dating a hunk, and she's surrounded by chocolate. She's living the dream...or is she?"

"Two of today's most popular genres--Romance and Amish fiction--together in one volume."

"Separated by a decade and 200 points on their SAT scores, Jack and Connor Reed have a life in the Cleveland suburbs held together by spit and Chinese takeout." 

Guess which one I just finished reading.

In Family and Other Accidents by Shari Goldhagen, the novel opens when Connor is still in high school. His parents have died, so his older brother Jack has moved back home to see Connor through graduation. 

After Connor leaves the state for college, the brothers take different paths (with similar detours) in figuring out how to define their family. 

Jack moves in with Mona. They break up. They marry. Mona gets pregnant. Jack sleeps with Kathy. Jack and Mona divorce. Jack proposes to Kathy. Jack sleeps with his ex, Mona. 

Connor breaks up with college girlfriend. He meets Laine. They get pregnant. Connor and Laine marry. Connor sleeps with college girlfriend. Connor and Laine have another baby. Connor gets sick. 

What can be summarized as "boy meets girl/boy sleeps with other girl" is made more compelling by the alternating points of view of not only the boys (Connor and Jack), but of their girlfriends, wives, and daughters. Dysfunctional, in this case, functions quite well in the novel to read when you've run out of Amish romances.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"128. A comedy. (Not a bad one.)"

Starting From Happy by Patricia Marx is composed of chaplettes (see title). And drawings.  And characters that would feel comfortable living in Sunset Towers.*

Imogene Gilfeather designs lingerie. Wally Yez works in a lab. They may or may not fall in love, buy a house, and have children. You may or may not fall in love with Marx's style of writing. But as the book's narrator Patty asks,"Have you checked out life lately?"

*see Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I often think back to decisions in my life that could have gone another way. What if I had gone to a different college? What if I had not done that volunteer program? What if I had not downed two shots of tequila at that party in Austin?

In How It All Began, Penelope Lively presents a chain of events and interactions stemming from one woman's mugging. Marriages are cast in doubt. Businesses are revived. Friendships are formed. Books are read.

Books play a central role in the story. The woman who has been mugged, Charlotte, is a retired teacher and avid reader. When she moves in with her daughter Rose to recuperate she leaves behind her library.  For Charlotte, "reading has been central, the necessary fix, the support system" (34). Although she has had to leave behind her books, Charlotte manages to continue her volunteer work as a literacy tutor. She begins meeting with one of her students, Anton, at Rose's house. What Charlotte doesn't know is that she is providing a "fix" for her daughter in Anton.

Rose and Anton have this exchange on page 125.

"I wish…" She hesitated.
"You wish?"
"I wish I'd been there too. Maybe…Maybe next time we could do a London walk together."
"I hope perhaps you say that," said Anton. "I have hope very much."

So sweet. And they haven't even done any shots.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

This book is set in Wisconsin, but it brought to mind the women I met in Oregon.

The ones who still make freezer jam from freshly picked berries, sauerkraut from homegrown cabbage, and homemade bread for the priests. The ones whose parents or grandparents traveled to Oregon from the Midwest to make a new life. The ones who spend their days reliving the night they danced to the Glen Miller Orchestra or the afternoon they met their husband riding to the strawberry field.

The book's sisters, Milly and Twiss, would have felt right at home.