WHEN LIFE THROWS YOU LEMONS — A REVIEW

In this sequel to Waiting to Exhale, we meet up with the four friends, Savannah, Bernadine, Robin, and Gloria, a few years after we left them last.

Still living in Phoenix, the women continue to meet for their girls’ get-togethers and share what’s going on in their lives. But the years have brought disappointments, sorrow, divorces, deaths, and all the inevitable events that life offers up to us. But how these women are dealing with these events is what Getting to Happy spotlights in this newest tale.

The narrative is told from the alternating points of view of the four women: sometimes in first-person and other times in third-person.

What I enjoyed, just as I did the first time around, is how the women don’t pull any punches as they tell each other just what they think and feel. They’ve never hesitated to tell each other the truth, even when it hurts.

So how will they each learn from the mistakes of the past, focus on the present, and live in the moment? As we watch them stumbling along until they finally start to get it right, we can exhale…at long last. Since maybe they’re going to start reaching their potential and discovering that being fifty isn’t the end of the world, or of their happiness.

I liked the characters as much as I did in the first book. This one seemed a little more muted, or maybe slightly less exhilarating. I enjoyed it, but I’m giving it four stars.


WHO AM I WITHOUT YOU? — A Review of “I See You Everywhere”

i see you everywhereIn the novel I See You Everywhere , the two sisters, Louisa and Clem, speak to us in their alternate voices, to reveal their distinctive qualities; as unique as each one is, the bond they share is heightened by their distinct individuality.

Louisa is the oldest—the conscientious student and the one who longs for marriage, children and an art career— while Clement (Clem) is the daring one— the rebel, uncontainable, and irresistible to men.

Their story begins in the eighties and continues for more than a decade—and then veers off in a new direction when their bond is tragically severed.

In Clement’s voice, we learn how she feels about her life, her choices: “Sometimes I feel uncommitted to life, or to mine. I feel as if what I thought was going to be My Life (the Siamese twin) quietly snuck off on her own when I wasn’t looking, chose a different fork in the trail a ways back, and sometimes our two paths cross, so I bump into My Life by accident, and I say, `Here you are! Where have you been?’ ”

An excerpt from Louisa’s story reveals and sums up how different she feels from Clem—how different she is… “About the only thing we had in common that summer was solitude. Or so I was led to believe. Mine was a solitude of retreat and longing, fraught with wishes and sighs—but Clem’s I imagined as sure and intrepid, a flight from everything soft about civilization. I was copy-editing ruminations on art. Clem was counting seals…We communicate best by mail. On the phone, we argue. In person, we tend to become sarcastic. Our letters, though, have a touch of romantic collusion.”

From an early age, the girls are rivals, even as they cling to each other to define them as individuals and as part of a unit known as sisters. They validate each others’ feelings, even though they disagree about so much. Through the years, the strength of the bond increases…They face difficulties and support each other despite the rivalries and differences between them. Their lives change in dramatic directions. The author beautifully chronicles the growth of the women and their relationship, even as she teases us by leaving clues that, at some point, everything will change dramatically and unexpectedly.

This story, beautifully wrought with great descriptions that bring the reader right into each moment, spotlights clearly the emotional life of each woman through the alternate use of the first person narrative. It is almost as if we can see inside each woman’s soul.

I enjoyed Julia Glass’s novels Three Junes and The Whole World Over, but this story topped them both, in my opinion.

LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

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Merrilee Hennessey, our lead character, is like many young adolescent girls as she grows up–rife with fantasies and illusions. But unlike some of her generation, she also bears the burden of budding addictions. Growing up with alcoholic parents (even though functional), her view of life is already distorted. Throw Elvis and James Dean into the mix, and you have a hopeless romantic, questing for love in all the wrong places.

We first meet Merrilee as she looks back upon her life and as she longs to provide stability for her granddaughter.
Then the story takes us through the yearning, the rejection, and the ongoing challenge that is her life. She struggles to provide a home as a single parent while building a semblance of a career. She hopes for love, despite every rejection and despite every obstacle along the way. She clings to these “hopelessly romantic” ideals long past their shelf life and despite every failure along the way. And she learns, finally, that even after she apparently won an earlier battle with eating disorders, an alcohol dependency crops up to challenge her yet again.

In the end, she finds that taking care of herself brings the most satisfaction. And then, almost as a side effect, she discovers love in the most unexpected of places.

SECRETS, BETRAYALS, AND THE BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP

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Childhood friends, Abigail and Lila, are torn apart by a betrayal that leaves them each damaged in different ways for years to come.

Abigail, the daughter of the family housekeeper, strives to achieve something with her life, and after many years of struggle, she becomes a household name…a diva of domesticity…A brand name.  Her family life appears perfect, just like her domestic goddess kingdom, but underneath, more secrets and betrayals lurk.

Lila, worlds apart from Abigail in the beginning, as the daughter of a rich family, seemingly continues on this path, ending up with her handsome husband, beautiful Park Avenue apartment, and loving son.  Then, with one brutal stroke of luck—or karma—it is all taken away, and she is forced to seek employment just to sustain herself and her son. 

Which is why she finds herself, after numerous rejections, on the doorstep of her former friend.

When Abigail offers Lila a job as her housekeeper, it would seem like vengeance, or some kind of karmic justice.

Meanwhile, Lila’s twin brother Vaughn, a world traveler and Abigail’s teenage lover comes home with devastating news of his own.

The scene is set for drama, but everything seemingly spins out of control when a woman from Mexico begins wending her way to New York to avenge her daughter’s death.  A factory fire took the life of Concepcion’s daughter, Milagros, which Concepcion believes is the direct result of Abigail’s negligence.

Will the secrets and betrayals of the past finally come home to roost?  Will Abigail and Lila ever restore the bond they once shared?  What is going on with Abigail’s teenage daughter, and will her strange, obsessive preoccupation with Lila’s son turn into something even more troubling?  And finally, what culminating events will bring all of the characters together or forever tear them asunder?

An intriguing read, this story of domestic drama truly transcends the “domestic” to become 41XFVM+L0tL__SX106_a sweeping emotional tale of lives derailed and family secrets revealed.

A PEEK INTO “THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS,” A BOOK REVIEW

51VLpm-cpKL__SX106_It is the Sixties in the Bay Area.  Ah, this seems so familiar!  As I read along about the five women who meet in the park every Wednesday, with their kiddies, the whole thing feels like it could have happened in my life.

That’s what is wonderfully cozy about this book.  The reader feels the connection between the women and gets a little peek into their lives.  The first-person narrator is one of the women, so the whole thing feels even more intimate.

But then it changes into something more, as the women begin writing.  Then the whole purpose of the meetings is writing and critiquing and finding their own voice as women, as people, in a way that’s different for those times.  Yes, they do go to the occasional peaceful protest, but the crux of their time together is about the writing.

But the book veers off again, as each of the women faces some kind of crisis.  First, the marriage that’s torn asunder by the husband’s cheating; then the cancer scare that turns into more than a scare.  As they each bond together to support each other through the tough times, you see the familiarity again…Women and Sisterhood.

This book felt so real that I couldn’t put it down.  I hoped to discover more about their lives, but alas, the final page came anyway.  The writer makes us care about the characters, which is what good writing is all about.