CJ Bro's Reviews > The Breakdown Lane

The Breakdown Lane by Jacquelyn Mitchard
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Nov 30, 10

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Read from November 22 to 24, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Jacquelyn Mitchard has a way of tackling tough subjects without leaving her readers feeling hopelessly defeated and depressed. My heart bled for the young son, Gabe, who inherited the full weight of the responsibility that his parents were shirking. At age 49, Father Leo decided he had missed out on something along the way and had the mother of all midlife crises in his quest to reclaim his youth! It was all about him, with absolutely no consideration for the impact his behavior was having on his family's financial and emotional security. He was the personification of selfishness and self-absorption, and his behavior inexcusable under any circumstances.

His wife Julieanne’s first reaction to her husband’s desire to “find himself” was confusion laced with a half-hearted attempt at stoicism, but upon the discovery that she had Multiple Sclerosis, she finally gave in to despondency, leaving her 15-year-old son, Gabe -- already struggling in school with a learning disability -- to pick up the pieces. Suddenly he wore all the hats in the family: mother, father, brother, breadwinner (he took to writing his mother’s “Dear Abby” type column so she wouldn’t lose her job while wallowing in her depression), babysitter and underage chauffeur, caregiver, housekeeper, counselor and general Jack of all Trades. It broke my heart to watch this family sink lower and lower into the mire while father Leo took to life in a commune with a 'new and better family.' But wait–there’s more!

No. I won’t go into the details. I’ve probably talked you out of reading this book already! But don’t be so quick to write it off. You’ll be the loser if you do. Julianne finally pulls herself together, and Gabe finally gets acknowledgement for being the sainted child he is. And as for father, Leo – he finds himself saddled with far greater burdens of responsibility in his new life than he ever had in the life he fled. But, still true to character, Leo never really “gets it.”

I found this story poignant and sad, at times positive and at times positively frustrating. The mother, Julianne, is a basically good person and loving mother who finally just becomes too overwhelmed to cope. Count on a happy ending, however, although one that came a bit too easily in my opinion -– all tied up with a big, pretty bow. If the author’s final message was meant to convey the idea that money does buy happiness, then she succeeded. An easy out to all the family’s problems, with a mansion and sport cars for all!

Be that as it may, The Breakdown Lane presents an excellent portrait of a family in crisis and its rise back to normal. Were the ending more believable, I would give this a 5.0, but as it is, it still earns a healthy 4.0 in my book with my humble assurances that it is definitely worthy of your time.

Carol
www.open.salon.com/blog/backfence
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