Angela Amman

The 24th Letter – A review

Monica Sholar books

Though he prefers his hot dogs without the trappings of a Coney, Dylan would happily eat at Coney Island restaurants at least once a week. Growing up in Michigan, he will learn that there’s some version of a Coney Island every couple of miles, and when he’s old enough to drink it, he will likely order a pop with his meal. There’s something that makes a local book a little more fun, the landmarks and local language peppering the pages.

Monica R. Sholar’s The 24th Letter takes place in the fictional Belle Isle Heights, and Michigan residents — particularly residents of the Detroit area — will recognize hospitals, universities, and shopping locations that pay homage to places in the Metro Detroit area. Reading a book set in a familiar place makes the setting feel even more real, more urgent, which worked so well in the suspense novel.

The eerie obsession Kevin Dennison has for the wife of CIA Agent Malone is at the heart of this story, and it leads to several twists and thrills throughout The 24th Letter. There are kidnappings and exposed secrets, fear and those moments in suspense stories that the reader just knows the character is going to get herself in trouble and knows there’s nothing in the world that can stop her.

Of course, my favorite parts of the book deal with the relationships between the characters. Even without the intrigue and suspense in the novel, Sholar writes the type of relationship issues many couples face. If you strip away the heightened issues of the plot, readers will relate to relationship issues like a severe betrayal of a friendship, whether omission of truth is another sort of lie, and the baggage each individual brings to a relationship. The characters and their motivation are what really drove my interest in The 24th Letter — I truly felt myself rooting for them as I flipped furiously through the pages.

Michigan readers and fans of suspense novels will find themselves speeding through The 24th Letter to find out what happens to Robin Malone.

 

Keep up with Monica R. Sholar

  • Check out a sneak peek of Sholar’s next novel in the Belle Isle Heights Series — Esoteric Truth — coming in spring of 2015.
  • Michigan friends, see if you can catch one of her appearances. I was lucky enough to hear her speak at The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers this September, and she is fabulous!
  • Like her on Facebook
  • Follow her on Twitter

Do you enjoy reading books where you recognize the setting?

Juliet’s Nurse – A Review

Juliet's Nurse review

We giggled a little when our teacher explained the bawdier lines in Romeo and Juliet, our junior high selves shocked that someone as hallowed as Shakespeare used dirtier jokes than we did. Those lines come to life when read by people other than ninth graders stumbling over iambic pentameter for the first time, and I finally understood how funny Romeo and Juliet could be when I saw the Baz Luhrmann version. Mercutio has always been my favorite character, but Juliet’s nurse matches his quick tongue barb for barb.

Lois Leveen deepens the story of the nurse in Juliet’s Nurse. The historical fiction novel is superbly rendered with sensual details that allow readers to delve into the life of the nurse as she moves between her world of poverty and the lavish world into which she is thrust when she becomes a wet nurse for Juliet Cappelletti.

The reader meets Angelica, the nurse, in the days before she becomes Juliet’s wet nurse, and the story is truly hers. Her visceral, emotional tie to Juliet is immediate, and it deepens throughout the novel, the tentacles of their connection twisting the two of them together for far longer than the typical relationship of a child and a wet nurse.

To be truthful, I don’t know enough about the practice of wet nurses to know why the wet nurse wouldn’t translate to a normal nanny-like position, because Lady Cappelletti definitely doesn’t invoke much confidence as a mother. That was one of the questions I had as Angelica schemes to keep her position near Juliet.

I’ve read similar types of historical fiction, where the story in question is almost a prequel to an established work of fiction. Romeo and Juliet has the sort of recognition that I don’t think I’m dropping spoilers when I mention I was curious to see how the ending of Juliet’s Nurse would compare to the tragic, Shakespearean ending. It’s impossible for me to read this type of book without the eventual end in mind.

One of the things I adore about the Luhrmann version is the way the original language is retained, with the setting modernized. I thought Leveen did a wonderful job of keeping her prose in the same tone as the original work without feeling contrived.

The heart of this tale is the relationship between Juliet and Angelica, and the way their bond twists — and sometimes strangles — the relationships they have with other people in their lives. Shakespeare’s nurse is obviously devoted to her charge, but Juliet’s Nurse really deepens the influence the nurse has on Juliet and the entire household.

I also really appreciated Leveen’s take on Friar Lorenzo, the man who plays such an important role in the marriage of the young lovers and Juliet’s misguided plan to trick her family into believing she’s dead. Tybalt is another character who is really transformed in this book, where he becomes so much more than a vengeful, sword-happy plot device.

A little complaint I have with the book comes after the story’s conclusion. The Author’s Note calls Romeo and Juliet “the world’s most cherished love story,” and I can’t help but cringe at the idea that the world’s most cherished love story is basically immediate infatuation, all sorts of missed communication, and death. (I made sure to have conversations about this when teaching.) Let’s find better romantic inspiration.

Overall, I think Juliet’s Nurse is interesting and beautifully written, and it will appeal to historical fiction fans and anyone who loves — or hates — the original Romeo and Juliet. After all, the two emotions are eternally entwined, both in Shakespeare’s version and in Leveen’s.

Do you consider Romeo and Juliet a full-blown love story?

Sisterland – A Review

Sisterland

 

“Mommy?” she asked, exasperated, “Why didn’t you just have two girls?”

I teased her a bit that a little sister might not be nearly as accommodating as her brother. I don’t doubt how much she adores him, but there is a part of me that understands that desire to experience sisterhood. But as Pinkalicious reminds us, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” (quote by Victoria Kann in one of the several Pinkalicious books we read again and again.

Vi and Daisy, the sisters of Sisterland, get to experience sisterhood in the most intense way possible — or so I imagine. They’re identical twins, and they happen to have what they call “senses,” a sort of extrasensory perception that lets them sense spirits and what will happen in the future, at least in bits and pieces. Yet, how they use their abilities diverges as they grow older.

Daisy sheds her name, embracing Kate as an abbreviated version of her middle name, throws herself into life at college, and spends years striving for a facade of normalcy that doesn’t involve ESP. Vi, on the other hand, flows into eccentricity, crafting a career as a medium, and eschewing the family life to which Kate tends so carefully.

When Vi publicly predicts an “earthquake season,” Kate privately senses the precise date, and the story careens forward from there.

Whether or not you believe in the sisters’ ESP is relatively unimportant. Sittenfeld explores so much more than psychic predictions. At the heart of the story, Sisterland addresses the way different beliefs can divide people who love each other, and how varying perceptions of an event can have a ripple effect far beyond the event itself. As the earthquake’s predicted date grows closer, Kate is forced to confront more than her desire to cleanse herself of her senses.

I related a lot to Kate as she struggled to find a rhythm that melded all of the different relationships in her life. As a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend, she is pulled in several different directions, and at times it seems like she isn’t being completely honest with anyone about how she feels or what she needs from them. She’s spent so many years striving for “normal,” the cracks in her life are more obvious to the reader than they are to her.

Sisterland delves into the powerful question addressed in much women’s fiction: how far will we truly go for the people we love? What relationships can be sacrificed when our actions threaten the very ground on which we walk?

Sittenfeld’s questions don’t have simple answers, and I applaud Sisterland for not smoothing over the aftershocks of Vi’s prediction. It’s a strong novel that leaves much to think about or to discuss, and it would be a solid book club pick. (Bonus for me? It takes place in St. Louis, and I recognized some of the locations and local landmarks from our visit this summer. I love when that happens in books!)

Would you believe a psychic about an impending natural disaster in your neighborhood?

Get the Behavior You Want… – A Review

Ask Doc G Book

I spent the afternoon volunteering at my daughter’s school, a fundraiser that focuses on outdoor activity. I spent my hours with one eye on Dylan becoming the dirtiest preschooler in the world in the sandbox and the other on the obstacle course. I cheered and clapped, reminded kids about what to do at each station and straightened obstacles when they were toppled beyond use. When kids stumbled on the balance beam, I reassured, “You’ve got this!” as they climbed back onto the close-to-the-ground beam.

I’ve always been proud of not rushing to help up my children when they fall. I let them try handstands, climb trees, and ride their bikes faster down hills than might be prudent. They fall. They scrape their knees and request bandaids I apply again and again. I try to balance my worry about their well-being with my desire to let them trust their own instincts about what they can do, to brush off small scrapes themselves, to realize stumbling is an important part of learning.

In this regard, I think I’m doing a fantastic job raising resilient kids.

But they’re getting older, and some of the scrapes they’re experiencing aren’t happening because of a misstep while barreling down an asphalt path. The scrapes are from words from their friends that sting or struggles with not doing things perfectly right the first time.

These scrapes? I have a harder time letting them fix themselves.

“Find Resilience Opportunities” was one of the first chapters I read in Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate by Deborah Gilboa, MD. I know it’s one I’ll read again and again as I force myself to put aside my desperate desire to soothe their hurt feelings in order to teach them to solve their problems themselves. After reading Dr. Gilboa’s chapter on the importance of resilience — and how we can help our kids develop it — I know that I can be a sounding board and a comforting hug without swooping in to solve their emotional hurts.

Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate is a parenting book by one of the most practical and loving doctors — and mothers — I know. You may have seen her online or on television as Ask Doc G, and her advice always makes me feel better. Her book is an extension of her media presence — check out her YouTube series of advice — and it’s the type of parenting book you’ll reference for years.

One of the greatest elements of the book is the straightforward, no-nonsense way she delivers her message. She offers reasons for her advice, and all of it centers around parenting in a way that will raise healthy, independent adults, which is something I think can be lost in the grind of daily parenting. Many of her chapters offer concrete examples and advice broken down by age group. It gives tired parents a quick frame of reference and is a great reminder that we can be mindful of parenting the children we have today, in order to build a foundation for the children we’ll be parenting in the future.

Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate will help parents tackle everything from picky eating and playdates to technology, relationship issues, and extracurricular activities. You’ll keep this one on your shelves until you look into your child’s eyes and realize he’s become the fantastic adult you’ve been watching take shape for years.

Follow Ask Doc G on Facebook / YouTube / Twitter / Google+

Have your parenting rough spots changed as your children have grown?

Disclosure: I received a copy of Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate for consideration for review. All opinions are my own.

 

The Fever – A review

The FeverHigh school relationships are intense — a combination of hoarded emotions and over-analyzed moments, envy and the projection of feelings. A desperation hides beneath the surface of the shiny newness of the connections, unspoken worries about how far is too far and wondering exactly how much you’re willing to do for the person you love.

And those are the friendships — not the romantic relationships.

For teen girls, even the most visceral, passionate attractions to boys are overshadowed by friendships. Those connections weave together in unexpected ways: girls who have known each other forever, girls who participate in the same activities, girls whose other-ness is the very thing that attracts them to each other. When placed into the pressure-filled walls of high school, walls that extend all the way home in the middle of the night thanks to smartphones and YouTube, those threads cross and tangle, and Megan Abbott tautly pulls apart the sticky curtains to peer into the complicated world of teenage girls.

The Fever explores a mysterious affliction that targets female high school students. The girls experience seizures and tics that are unexplained by medical tests and sensationalized by news outlets and the wildfire speed of Internet connectivity, including You Tube clips of the seizures in action.

Deenie Nash is the central figure in The Fever: a student with a vaguely absent mother, a teacher father and a reluctant-heartthrob-hockey-player brother. Her two closest friends are the first two girls affected by the terrifying and mysterious illness, and Deenie vacillates between feeling inexorably connected to the events and oddly invisible because she remains seizure and tic-free.

Like her role in the events unfolding around her, Deenie is firmly in the middle of her friendships. Lise has been a fixture in her life forever, but Lise’s newfound beauty has impacted their friendship. Deenie’s reaction to the underlying shift in their relationship is revealed slowly as the story progresses to its climax. Her friendship with Gabby is different. Gabby is exotic and damaged, and Deenie clings to Gabby’s friendship with quiet desperation, even as it’s threatened by Gabby’s closeness to the elusive Skye.

Sound complicated? Imagine what it’s like to deal with those push-pull relationships while juggling school, parental expectations, and creeping attraction to boys. It’s no wonder teen girls struggle to grasp their own identities, and Abbott expounds on that without objectifying them.

At the heart of the social commentary is a riveting, noir tale of a community held hostage by the above-mentioned illness, and interwoven with parental worry, a gorgeous — and possibly toxic — phosphorous lake, and even a look at the HPV vaccine offered to young women.

The Fever offers an astute look into the psyche of teen girls and the struggle to explore their own personalities under the piercing gaze of public opinion, the dichotomy between the value society places on appearing sexually desirable while harshly judging girls who explore that same sexuality, and the cutting edge of friendships whose loyalty can shatter in an instant.

I was fortunate enough to hear Abbott read from The Fever this summer. While talking about the story, her research — the idea arose when she saw a similar, unexplained incident that occurred in New York — and her writing, she said, “Creeping dread is the thing I love most.” She works that sense of creeping dread to perfection in The Fever. It’s not a horror story, but her words hook the reader almost immediately, and she expertly wades in those teenage waters that look so beautiful on the surface while concealing hidden dangers.

Readers, add this one to your must-read list.

What was your favorite book of the summer?

Rare Bird – A review

Rare Bird

The countdown to school is ticking loudly. Months have dwindled to weeks, and now days are becoming hours. Soon, the house will be quieter, at least for several hours a week.

They’ve become little puppies lately: running, yelling, tumbling together in piggyback-ride-dance-move-cartwheels that inevitably turn to squabbling and elbow throwing and tears. I attempt separation, but they’re gravitationally connected right now. Within minutes, they’re giggling and fighting and laughing and tumbling again.

With their energy — their togetherness — filling our rooms, it seems fitting that the passages about the sibling relationship between Jack and Margaret in Rare Bird bubble at the surface when I think about this portrait of grief and hope.

Rare Bird by Anna Whitson-Donaldson is a story no mother should have to tell — that of the loss of her son, Jack, to a flooded creek that rose from a trickle to a dangerous hazard in a horrifying afternoon.

Jack was twelve and a brother, a friend, an actor, a LEGO lover, and through reading Anna’s blog and Rare Bird, I feel like I know him a little bit. When Anna describes how Jack chose to share a room with his best-friend-younger-sister while on vacation, I can’t help but think of my own children, who often fall asleep head-to-toe in Abbey’s top bunk.

I won’t pretend I didn’t sob when I read this line:

“I wonder, is Margaret still a sister if her brother is gone?”

– Anna Whitson-Donaldson, Rare Bird

My heart broke when I read Rare Bird, though I knew Anna’s story, and it broke when I read through my underlined passages and dog-eared pages, and it will break again when I revisit this beautiful journey of hope through pain. And I will revisit it. Through her anguish, Anna threads love, faith, and the promise that there is a way to live a life after an unthinkable loss.

Jack lives through Anna’s words and through Anna’s faith, a part of Anna she questions and affirms in countless ways as she moves around the grief spiral. As someone who struggles — who is struggling — with faith and religion and spirituality, I wasn’t sure I would be able to relate to that part of Rare Bird, though I know Anna’s faith is an integral part of who she is.

I needn’t have worried. Faith and God are a part of Anna, and they are a part of her story and of Rare Bird, but she’s not dictating how others should grieve — or live.

Her story is found in Bible verses, yes, but it’s also in blue jays and boxes of LEGO sets, a dedication in a school play program and two Thomas the Train engines. Her story is found in a mother-daughter trip to Target — Jack’s mother and Jack’s sister finding a little bit of grace and hope in a discovered gift card.

Anna’s words will help those who are grieving, I’m sure, but they’ll also help those who love people in the midst of grief. She shatters the worry that grief should be solitary; I have a passage highlighted with, “Be this for people,” in the margins. Anna’s prose is lovely and real; she doesn’t shrink from the pain of Jack’s loss, but there’s a sense of comfort in the way she weaves her story, her family’s story, together.

No mother should have had to write Rare Bird, but I can unequivocally suggest that everyone I know read this poignant, unforgettable book.

Please consider pre-ordering Rare Bird or making a note to purchase it when it’s available next month.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home – A review

fiction book recommendations
I finished Tell the Wolves I’m Home at my kitchen table, pizza cooking in the oven and my kids working together to craft “Pony Land” out of LEGO pieces. They worked with the oversized duple blocks instead of the tiny pieces I step on at least once a day. I’d like to think it’s because she knows they’re easier for him to maneuver, but I’m fairly certain it’s because towering structures arise more quickly from their thicker foundation. As usual, her words pieced together the story of the ponies tucked into the pony apartments, and he filled in minute details when allowed.

Their closeness is similar to the childhood relationships of the siblings in Tell the Wolves I’m Home, a comparison that became a contrast as the story built. Two sibling relationships are integral cogs — though not necessarily the main focus — in Carol Rifka Brunt’s first novel, siblings whose intensely close childhood relationships are splintered by time and misplaced blame for the directions in which their lives diverged.

At fourteen, June’s relationship with her sixteen year old sister has crumbled from the days when they waited at the bus stop as the Elbus girls, sisters who weren’t even distinguished by their individual names. Her closest friend is her uncle Finn, a quirky, cultured artist whose lavender and orange-scented apartment and city adventures are an enclave in which June can finally feel special, away from her talented, acerbic sister and overworked parents.

From the howling of wolves, to the growing largeness of Toby’s eyes, to June’s costume-like wardrobe of an ill-fitting Gunne Sax dress and medieval boots, Brunt’s prose sets a hazy, fairy tale scene.

As is par for the course in many fairy tales, she relegates the parents of her main character to the sidelines, this time in the quintessential 80s job of tax accountants during tax season. June and her sister, Greta, are orphans in only the most convenient of ways, in order to let the plot unfold with little parental interference, though their mother’s background and motivation plays a pivotal role in June’s discovering the chasm between her perception of her relationship her beloved uncle and the reality he lived when June closed the door to his Manhattan apartment and retreated to Westchester.

Finn’s portrait of June and Greta becomes one of the only ways the family communicates after Finn’s death, when June’s secret, unlikely friendship threatens to unravel her relationship with her family even further. Changes to the painting threaten its value, while Finn’s deliberate use of negative space may reveal more to June about her own motivation and her heart than she’s ready to admit.

As Tell the Wolves I’m Home unfolds, readers will fall in love with the achingly flawed characters who are all searching for the type of connections and relationships that will make their existences seem a little more meaningful. Set in the 1980s, in the days when AIDS might be transferred through a kiss and AZT was a collection of letters only heard on TV, Brunt addresses the complicated landscape of first loves, exceptional talent, blind promises and how all of those things intersect with the ordinary landscape of most of our lives.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the type of book I will tuck into my heart for a long time. I hope to one day share it with Abbey and Dylan, as both a cautionary tale about the ripple effect of family secrets and a testament to the possibility of healing, even when it seems all is lost.

What’s the last book you’ve read that reminds you of your own family?

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls – A review

Miss Mabel's School for Girls

 

Witches hold a strange sort of power in stories. I can remember playing The Wizard of Oz with my friends when we were kids, taking turns being Glinda, because she had the prettiest costume. Abbey’s Halloween costume this year was the Wicked Witch, but she was more interested in the oversized shoulder pads and giant emerald brooch than any of the witch’s actual misdeeds.

One of the interesting things about Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross is that this story’s “wicked” witch is stunningly attractive, her maliciousness buried inside a beautiful package. There’s a danger in writing about something so universally popular, like witches, because there’s a need to balance a sense of the familiar with an original story.

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls has many of the things you’d expect from a story about a girls’ school for witches — spells, jealously, some clairvoyance and an uneasy threat of danger lingering in the very place that should be safest for the girls. There’s also a great deal that shows Cross’s foresight in world-building, with a governing body in place for the witches, grumblings of past revolts and talk of border disputes.

Cross does a really wonderful job with the pacing of the story. There are secrets lurking within Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, and the reader knows not all of them will be revealed this story, as it’s the first in a series of books. However, readers won’t be disappointed at the end of this book. Many of the questions that arise throughout the book are answered by the conclusion, though — of course — more are raised.

Cross’s characters truly come to life as the book progresses. Bianca Monroe, the main character, has been raised knowing she would eventually have to face the powerful witch who cursed her family long ago. Her tenacity and single-mindedness are nicely balanced by the more relaxed personality that comes through when she becomes friends with two of the girls in her class.

Leda and Camille are interesting characters in their own right — one knows exactly what she wants and has the ambition to get it, and the other is unsure where her talents lie. Camille’s uncertainty is a welcome addition to a young adult story, because that feeling of not being exactly sure what to pursue is so relatable. The trifecta of friends manage to balance each other very well in this first story, and readers will be interested to see how the friendship plays out in future books.

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls brings an original voice to the story lore of witches, and readers who enjoy YA will especially want to start this series before Cross’s next book arrives.

Do you have a favorite witch series? (I love Harry Potter and the Mayfair Witches, as different as they may be!)

The Tipsy Lit Book Club is discussing Miss Mabel’s School for Girls Friday, July 31 at 8:30 p.m. EST. Like the book club page on Facebook and join us to chat!

The Interestings – A review

The InterestingsFor a brief period in college, I obsessively looked at applications to be a counselor at a sleep away camp. After having a rollicking good time for two summers as a day camp counselor, I wanted to take the job up a notch. Deterred by bugs and logistics, I took a job at The Gap instead, and after reading The Interestings, I’m glad I did. Meg Wolitzer’s novel proves what I suspected back when I was a sophomore in college — summer camp can be transcendental for the campers, but counselors are just background players.

One summer in the 1970s, six friends bond over vodka and Tang cocktails in their summer camp teepee. Their lives and their paths are knit together that summer, and The Interestings follows along as they broach young adulthood and drift into middle age.

Jules Jacobson is born that summer. She previously lived as Julie Jacobson, a girl who might have been happy doing anything at all until she met her lifelong best friends Ash and Ethan and discovered she has an interest in comedic theater. Each of the six friends finds themselves in varying degrees of interest in artistic fields, from animation to dance. Of course, their levels of talent vary as well, and Wolitzer doesn’t gloss over the struggle between talent, ambition and practicality.

Not all of the six friends will end up doing what they dreamed of that first summer. In fact, not all of them will end up remaining friends at all, and the friendships that thrive also wade through the emotional waters of envy, jealousy and questions about whether people really change from their teenage selves — even if everything changes.

I adored The Interestings, and I could ramble about it for many, many words — anyone want to chat about it? Since I doubt anyone’s interested in a dissertation-length review, here are three specific reasons it settled into my “must purchase*” list.

I have a mild 80s obsession, and there was something compellingly voyeuristic in watching the friends navigate 1980s New York City as young adults.

Wolitzer’s ambitious scope, sweeping through the years and varying points of view of the characters, worked for me in a visceral way. I felt like I could understand each character’s motivations, even when I cringed at some of their actions and emotional reactions throughout their lives.

The observations about art, artistic expression, talent and economic advantage are fascinating. As a writer who always wanted to be a writer but who has taken several side steps along the way, the challenges of making a life out of something you love resonated in a way few stories do.

The Interestings layers storytelling, characters, social commentary and nostalgia in a way that makes me excited to read more of Meg Wolitzer’s books. My only regret is that it took me so long to find her work.

Do you think you’ve changed, fundamentally, since you were fifteen?

*Disclosure: I borrowed The Interestings from our library.

After I Do – A review

After I Do ReviewWho knew extra-curricular decisions for six and four year olds could be complicated? (Well, fine, all parents of older children who have warned me about it, but… ) The circular thoughts about over-scheduling and what we think they should do versus what they’ve shown an interest in doing and what about when they’ve shown an interest in every single possibility under the sun are tiring.

Something so inconsequential — and truly, extracurricular choices for a first grader are inconsequential — can reverse the clock until I feel like a kids wearing mom’s shoes and play acting at this whole parenting thing.

Marriage can feel like that, and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s After I Do is an authentic, tightly written look at what happens when two happily married people realize they’re just… not.

Lauren and Ryan fell into their relationship with the easy affection of people who fit together in an undefinable way. They took a traditional, if modern, path through their relationship and were in love with each other until they inadvertently inched apart.

Faced with the possible failure of their marriage, they make a decidedly non-traditional decision about how to spend the next year. During that year, their contact is non-existent, except for a certain matter of an unchanged email password that leads to a bit of angst-inducing — but soul-searching — voyeurism.

After I Do isn’t only a novel about marriage, though the relationship issues between Ryan and Lauren are real, poignant, and achingly relatable. I imagine most couples find themselves at odds with each other in the way that Lauren and Ryan do, though that drifting can be caught before anything as drastic happens as it does in the book.

Reid’s story is also one about self-doubt and searching for an adulthood that feels like one’s own and not one that’s been defined by other people’s rules. Many of Lauren and Ryan’s issues seem to arise from the way they acted with each other in order to keep together the kind of relationship they had at the beginning, and one they thought they should have based on preconceived notions about marriage.

When Lauren is forced to define herself as a person and not just half of a couple, she begins to discover parts of herself she’s forgotten — and parts that quietly morphed into a person she wasn’t necessarily happy becoming.

After I Do is sharply written, with tight dialog and the kind of complicated, nuanced relationships that exist in most of our real lives. Reid’s novel is a fun read, but it’s one that has stayed with me, especially during those moments — and there are more than I’d like to admit — when I don’t necessarily feel like I’m one of the adults in the house.

Do you find yourself trying to fit your adult life into previous ideas instead of defining it on your own? 

Disclosure: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid was strongly recommended by a friend. Reid and her publishing company have no clue I’m reviewing this, and all opinions are my own.

 

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