Find it at a local indie!
- Why I read it: Cover love, the Great Recession, generation clash
- Disclosure: Received a copy from the publicist for review. Thanks!
Joanie's ex-husband is having a baby with his new girlfriend. Joanie won't be having more babies, since she's decided never to have sex again. But she still has her teenaged daughter Caroline to care for. And thanks to the recession, her elderly mother Ivy as well. Her daughter can't seem to exist without texting, and her mother brags about "goggling,"-while Joanie, back in the workforce, is still trying to figure out her office computer. And how to fend off the advances of her coworker Bruce.While I read quite a few adult books every year, they're almost entirely what would fall under the definition of Literature; "lyrical" and "searing" and "unforgettable" style. Will be or already is taught in schools style. Shirley Jackson, Oscar Wilde, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Zora Neale Hurston, Barbara Kingsolver style. Occasionally the Literature is interspersed with my annual re-readings of Stephen King favorites, but yeah. Mostly Literature. So when faced with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough, a true-blue adult book that was neither Literature nor Stephen King, I was kind of paralyzed when I discovered I hated it from the first page. Were my standards too high? My life experience too low? Was there some kind of deeper level to this I just wasn't reaching?
Joanie, Caroline, and Ivy are stuck under the same roof, and it isn't easy. But sometimes they surprise each other-and themselves. And through their differences they learn that it is possible to undo the mistakes of the past.
But no. Unfortunately, between wooden, whiny characters I couldn't stand, foreshadowing visible a mile away, and a sex scene that literally made me gag, I'm pretty sure there wasn't.
It's especially disappointing because there was so much potential here. If you can read past the kind of ishy blurb, it's a cute and quirky premise. Sure, it'll be dated in a few years when we're either out of the Great Recession or in some kind of Second Great Depression/World War III combo and can laugh at how pathetic we were back in 2011, but dated isn't always bad when you're talking entertainment. It's also got one of the most fun covers I've seen for an adult book all year, a little like The Help meets...well, maybe just The Help on acid.
Some parts are almost worth it: a "special brownies" scene worthy of That '70s Show, some surprisingly tender explorations of stepmother-stepdaughter relationships, and Ivy's friendship with Lupe. But in the end, it can't seem to make up its mind between a YA story with Caroline, a chick lit one with Joanie, and a baby boomer melodrama with Ivy. There's no overarching theme to relate to, not even a fish-out-of-water comedy about being forced to live under the same roof. We jump between three stories too different to really capture our attention until the very end, where it feels like the story should have really begun. Perhaps most annoying of all are the mid-chapter switches between viewpoints, leaving me confused but too bored to care enough to pay more attention.
When I begin to not care that I lost this book somewhere between a courthouse, breakfast cafe, and vacant lot, you know it's bad. Yep, that happened, and yep, I found it and made myself finish - but it was a long and bloody battle. In short, it's a mess, and I'll stop myself there. Two out of five stars.
Now Listening: "Dashboard" by Modest Mouse.