It's always so difficult for me to review a book by an author I've been following for some years. Has the author's writing changed, or is it just me?It's always so difficult for me to review a book by an author I've been following for some years. Has the author's writing changed, or is it just me? Has my interpretation of her meaning changed, or have I just outgrown the particular genre?
With Elizabeth Berg, I really can't tell. In reading the reviews of this book, I can see that many of her long time fans are disappointed, but again, I ask the same question - is it us, or is it the author who has changed?
This book actually kept my attention - I didn't want to quit reading it part-way through or anything, which is something...but it is certainly a fairly flimsy work overall, IMHO. First of all, many of the situations just felt very superficial - 4 adult women living in a house with no strife or drama (that felt saccharine), the token lesbian character who is so very 'tough' on the outside but very soft on the inside (ugh.- she wasn't even a convincing lesbian...she acted much older than she was supposed to be, despite her "hip and cutting edge" writing job), the thinly developed relationship with BFF Penny, the "serendipity" that 2 of the 4 women would find men from their past who had been secretly waiting to reunite (gag me).
Also, the fact that the main character was a motivational speaker was both intriguing and completely unbelievable. Not to say that motivational speakers aren't human with flaws and weaknesses, but her issues were enough to not allow me to suspend my disbelief; she seemed like a con-artist of a motivational speaker.
From what I can gather from reading this story, the author has been doing a lot of soul-searching, perhaps therapy, and definitely some significant reading of the "self-help" genre. I liked some of the quotes, and I've listed them here if they can stand on their own without the trappings of the story or the specific characters. None are particularly earth-shattering, many can be found in any run of the mill self-help book, but some use really nice imagery, or otherwise touched me in some way.
I'm not sorry I read this book, but I don't particularly recommend it to anyone - I think I would be a little embarrassed to, to be honest.
"Our own individual life history is also shaped that way. In large part, when you factor out fate, what we are is because of what we believe about ourselves. Wherever we are in the world, we mostly live in the small space between our ears."
"..most people need someone else to tell them what they already know."
"I see where all this success has led me. Now I want to see what it's kept me from."
"There are times when you have to hurt so badly in order to move. Otherwise, you'll stay in a place you've outgrown."
"You know what you can do for me? Use your skills in some meaningful way right here instead of running all over the country. Slow down, step back, be inside your own skin, live. Open yourself to love. And give back in some meaningful way!"
"Once you start making decisions in which your heart, mind, and soul are congruent, you'll feel it as a kind of lift, if not liftoff."
"I like friendly people...who immediately make you feel welcome, and quite pleased to be yourself."
"..I take my box to the front porch and pull out my favorite deck of cards. They still carry the scent of the incense sold in the store where I bought them, a little place in New Orleans...It was a dark and narrow place, both peaceful and charged. Just walking in there made you feel enlivened in a particular way, as though you were outlined by something that glowed."
"I've gotten the fertility card. I don't ever recall having pulled it before. The application says, "You are being asked to rebirth yourself, to bring new life to an old and stagnant place...If you are considering beginning something new, the time is right. It is in you to succeed, if you choose to. Leave behind what has held you back, and move forward with confidence and joy."
"Once you've made up your mind to do a good and true thing, the universe will go out of its way to help you."
"Funny how drawn people are to the notion of fortune-telling, how susceptible they are to the thought of something supernatural offering a deeply personal revelation. The most pragmatic, the most sophisticated women used to fawn all over Cosmina, wanting her to tell them things they couldn't hear any other way."
"I look out the window into the clear blue sky. Here comes the drone of an airplane, the sound of a jogger running by. Here I am in the world, free."
"I thought of that famous Savannah cemetery statue, the one of the woman holding a plate in each hand, balancing them perfectly. That's who Annie reminded me of. I thought of how much I admire people who are able to not let one side of life cancel out the other, who can face up to opposing sides of it fully, often at the same time."
"We. It's good to have friends, that fleshy stockade."
"What if there's a whole different me under the me I know? It seems possible. Already I've seen that when you're pulled away from your normal routine, it's as though air and sunlight come into your brain and do a little housecleaning. A lifting up of what's been practically rusted into place to reveal something else, a thing that makes you understand the origin of the phrase 'new and exciting', a phrase usually offered with irony, in order to hide the longing."
"We go into the library, that layman's priory, that paper-scented oasis of quiet industry and calm."
"I straighten in my chair, smile at the approaching waiter. He is so elegantly gay I feel ashamed of myself, of my predictable domestic status. Breeder. Divorced. Knowledge of nightlife and art scene nil." (HA!)
"Oh, why isn't there a Community Center for People Who Need a Little Something? If people would only tell the truth about the way they felt, it would be busy all the time. There could be folding chairs arranged in groups, people sitting there saying, "I don't know, I just wanted to come here for awhile." (This quote really had potential, but I think she petered out at the end. I think this a lot- what if we really just said how we feel all the time, without so many of the trappings and masks that we have to don before we emote? And what if people who felt lonely or misunderstood had somewhere to go to meet with others who were feeling the same? Not a bar or anything skeevy, just somewhere other than your own living room where other living, breathing people would understand your need for connection and interaction.)...more
So, I just recently watched that movie "Chef", about that chef who went from a fancy shmancy chef at a fancy pants restaurant to a food truck owner anSo, I just recently watched that movie "Chef", about that chef who went from a fancy shmancy chef at a fancy pants restaurant to a food truck owner and a better dad and a Twitter user...anyway, the point here is that I found that movie to be REALLY heartwarming and charming. And since it is a movie almost entirely composed of male characters (and lots of fart jokes), this was not something that I was expecting! (But....Sofia Vergara...).
Long story short, something about this story hit the same sort of chord with me...while the plot of almost any romance is typically pretty cut and dry (from a 30,000 foot view, anyway), this one was just suspenseful enough and...sweet. And there was so much "overcoming" and "reprioritizing" that it was refreshing and surprisingly not treacly or saccharine.
Maybe my favorite Jojo Moyes book so far...if you can suspend your disbelief for over 300 pages and are looking for a quick romp from one end of the UK to the other with a band of tragically misfitted young people and a giant, smelly, drooling dog named Norman, this might be a book that belongs on your 'to-read' shelf.
Some good quotes:
"Rich is paying every single bill on time without thinking about it. Rich is being able to have a holiday or get through Christmas without having to borrow against January and February. Actually, rich would be just not thinking about money all the bloody time." -good to remember and be grateful for being able to support ourselves.
"Everyone I've ever met who was worth knowing was a bit different in school. You just need to find your people..Your tribe. You know, you spend your whole life feeling like you don't quite fit in anywhere. And then you walk into a room one day, whether it's at university or an office or some kind of club, and you just go, 'Ah. There they are.' And suddenly you feel at home."
"Because she knew that something happened to you when your mother didn't hold you close, or tell you all the time that you were the best thing ever, or even notice when you were home: a little part of you sealed over. You didn't need her. You didn't need anyone. And without even knowing you were doing it, you waited. You waited for anyone who got close to you to see something they didn't like in you, something they hadn't seen initially, and to grow cold and disappear too, like so much sea mist. Because there had to be something wrong, didn't there, if even your own mother didn't really love you?...Because even if the whole world was throwing rocks at you, if you had your mother at your back, you'd be okay. Some deep-rooted part of you would know you were loved. That you deserved to be loved."
"Sometimes, she told herself, life was a series of obstacles that just had to be negotiated, possibly through sheer act of will. She stared out at the muddy blue of the endless sea, gulped in the air, lifted her chin, and decided that she could survive this. She could survive most things. It was nobody's right to be happy, after all."
"The law of probability combined with the law of large numbers states that to beat the odds, sometimes you have to repeat an event an increasing number of times in order to get you to the outcome you desire. The more you do, the closer you get. Or, as I explain it to Mum, basically, sometimes you just have to keep going. I've taken Norman into the garden and thrown the ball for him eighty-six times this week. He still never brings it back. But I think we'll get there."
Fact-checkers are too expensive or something? As a pharmacist, a lot of the medication related info made my teeth itch- you can't "call in" a prescripFact-checkers are too expensive or something? As a pharmacist, a lot of the medication related info made my teeth itch- you can't "call in" a prescription for Percocet or OxyContin, and if you were to crush up an OxyContin (which is extended release), you essentially would be unable to function for a few hours...600 mg of Oxy per day is ridiculous, as is the way that she initially was getting her meds- what respectable dentist would still provide hydro odor 6 months after a surgical procedure?!? Oh, right...none!! Ridiculous. ...more
I liked this one. More magical realism, as you would expect from her previous works. Didn't realize the author had advanced stage breast cancer, but iI liked this one. More magical realism, as you would expect from her previous works. Didn't realize the author had advanced stage breast cancer, but is now in remission x 2 years. This took place in the deep south, which is a bit of a change for her, since she usually writes about NC. The alligator story is cool, and so is the theme of reclaiming your power....more
I am so completely ambivalent about this book, it's kinda nuts. There were a couple of times in the first half of the book where I found myself snortiI am so completely ambivalent about this book, it's kinda nuts. There were a couple of times in the first half of the book where I found myself snorting or chuckling out loud (in public!), but it quickly devolved into a confusing, chaotic collection of personal stories and problems that I could care less about.
I read some other reviews about the book before finishing it, but I don't think they actually affected my opinion of the book - some people are upset about the undercurrent of religious rigidity, some about the unlikable characters, blahblahblah. All of it - the "single girl tries to find love in the big city while wearing ____ brand shoes and carrying a $3000 purse"...gag me. It's like sex in the city, but worse somehow.
I totally checked this book out of the library because of the adorbs puppy on the cover, and if he could have played a SMALLER role in the book at large, I don't know how author could have managed it. I like the occasional chicklit - don't get me wrong. But this? There's probably something that is trying less hard to be "intelligent" chicklit (and failing less miserably), if that's what you're after....more
Some laugh-out-loud, deadpan comments stand out in an otherwise completely vanilla memoir about an ex-mennonite, her goofy mom, and her crazy ex-husbaSome laugh-out-loud, deadpan comments stand out in an otherwise completely vanilla memoir about an ex-mennonite, her goofy mom, and her crazy ex-husband.
I don't think it was her intention, but throughout the book the author seems to continue to "toot her own horn", and despite trying to play the victim regarding her failed marriage, seems to have an extraordinarily high opinion of herself....more
Well, I am impressed with Kimmie's tactics to get Jules to...ahem..open up, and the tactful way that their relationship was handled, although it seemeWell, I am impressed with Kimmie's tactics to get Jules to...ahem..open up, and the tactful way that their relationship was handled, although it seemed a superfluous plot line. (And no one cares in NYC who you hold hands with!- that was bizarre.)
(Of course, there's so much more to this book and the stories contained within, but it was that thought that prompted me to write a midpoint eval of sorts.)
Final eval- nice, girly read, with just enough depth to the damaged characters to make you care about them, but not as much as she probably wants you to care. I like that wiener can create such diverse female characters, but if she's trying to get into the headspace of authors like picoult, she's not there yet- talk about masterfully damaged women in those books!
Pretty good- an interesting look at all the women who came together to make this child, and a glimpse at the whole experience- egg donor, surrogate, etc. Ending is a bit too tidy, but that seems to make it a nice light read....more
I have loved these books, despite being ashamed of loving these books. However many tears I felt building while reading this one , I've gotten older aI have loved these books, despite being ashamed of loving these books. However many tears I felt building while reading this one , I've gotten older and more jaded, and never gave in. To be clear- there is no ring that fits over your cervix and that 'wears out', leading to pregnancy. Just so we are clear. Also, binge drinking while pregnant is a terrible idea. That is all....more
I cannot say enough awesome things about her first 2 books. This book was a major major major disappointment. The characters were "meh", the plot was
I cannot say enough awesome things about her first 2 books. This book was a major major major disappointment. The characters were "meh", the plot was so tepid it WISHED it could be called lukewarm, the descriptions of the time spent in the Philippines were so extraneous and exhausting...
While I was interested enough to keep reading to see if it got better, I was NOT sad when I finally finished it, which is exactly the opposite of how I remember feeling when I finished her other 2 books.
I had hoped to disprove all of the naysayers who read this book before me and given it terrible reviews. Surely they were just missing the magic that she works with the English language, her sparkling abilities to make relationships robust and glowing...
Nope. This book just sucks compared to the first 2. Don't judge De los Santos if this is the only thing you have read from her - it's simply not a fair judgement!...more
Cute, funny, and she's way smarter than I gave her credit for (my view was definitely skewed by Kelly Kapoor!). However, the fashionista part was boooCute, funny, and she's way smarter than I gave her credit for (my view was definitely skewed by Kelly Kapoor!). However, the fashionista part was booorrriinnng, and shallow. IMO....more
Cute, but uber-predictable and entirely implausible- had a hard time mustering a whole lot of empathy for well connected main character. Fun, but shalCute, but uber-predictable and entirely implausible- had a hard time mustering a whole lot of empathy for well connected main character. Fun, but shallow, feelgood read...more