On Flashback Fridays I will share with you the books I was not able to review when they were first released that have been screaming at me from my To-Be-Read bookshelf.
I am not going to lie, what is happening in our country scares me. I will not get all political but it did cause me to choose a different type of book for this week’s Flashback Friday. A book with no mystery to solve, a book about just every day life that I could comfortably “escape” into for a few hours and forget about what is really happening in the real world. I hope you won’t mind that I slipped away from the mystery genre this week.
Everyone Is Beautiful: A Novel
Setting – Massachsetts
Ballantine Books (February 17, 2009)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Kindle ASIN: B001NLL2TS
Lanie Coates’s life is spinning out of control. She’s piled everything she owns into a U-Haul and driven with her husband, Peter, and their three little boys from their cozy Texas home to a multiflight walkup in the Northeast. She’s left behind family, friends, and a comfortable life–all so her husband can realize his dream of becoming a professional musician. But somewhere in the eye of her personal hurricane, it hits Lanie that she once had dreams too. If only she could remember what they were.
These days, Lanie always seems to rank herself dead last–and when another mom accidentally criticizes her appearance, it’s the final straw. Fifteen years, three babies, and more pounds than she’s willing to count since the day she said “I do,” Lanie longs desperately to feel like her old self again. It’s time to rise up, fish her moxie out of the diaper pail, and find the woman she was before motherhood capsized her entire existence.
Lanie sets change in motion–joining a gym, signing up for photography classes, and finding a new best friend. But she also creates waves that come to threaten her whole life. In the end, Lanie must figure out once and for all how to find herself without losing everything else in the process.
I needed to read something different and funny and this book fit the bill.
Lanie’s life takes an abrupt turn when her husband’s new job uproots her family from their Texas home and into a 3rd floor 2 bedroom apartment in Massachusetts. She is with her kids, three under the age of 4, 24/7. While visiting a nearby park one day she reconnects with a classmate from high school and this gives her at least one adult to share things with and keep her sane. Her husband is wrapped up in his work and their relationship has reached the phase where you just go through the days without any real firm connection beyond being parents. At the end of her rope she joins a gym and realizes she has dreams as well. She just needs to figure out what they are and then find space to place them in her life. But can her marriage survive her putting herself first even just for part of the day or week without losing everything else so important to her.
As a mother of four I could relate to Lanie’s story quite easily. Mom’s always put themselves last. Those days when the children are small and it is a triumph to just get a shower or go to the bathroom by yourself. Unlike Lanie, I worked full time when my children were growing up, so I was around adults for a least 8 hours of the day. Lanie heads to the gym for her “me time”. I used to escape to my sewing room, where I made the lion’s share of the clothes for my family, and let my creative juices flow.
The author gives us an entertaining and in places really funny look at family life. You know the day to day stuff most of our lives are filled with. It’s not rocket science but sometimes getting through days with toddlers it seems like rocket science would be easier. Three little boys can be tough, especially 3 boys under four years old. I did want to jump in the book a few times to tell her to put the youngest one down. He was almost a year old and not crawling or walking yet and I think that was because she carried him everywhere. He was like her security blanket. Funny, after some lifestyle adjustments near the end of the book the little guy starts walking and crawling all in one day
This was just the book I needed to read at this time. It brought back some fond memories, but even it, a book like this, my new trigger word appeared, “suicide”. It seems I just can’t escape that in anything I read these days. Thankfully it was only a mention and was followed by a moment that made me laugh. This book was recommended to me several years ago, long before my son took his life. It has been buried in my To-Be-Read stacks since then. Waiting for me to find the perfect time to read it. Well last Sunday was the perfect time. If you need a light read, this may be the one.
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*This book was from my personal collection.
My First Book Read in 2017
The Mutual Admiration Society: A Novel
by Lesley Kagen
Setting – Wisconsin
Lake Union Publishing (February 1, 2017)
Paperback: 282 pages
Kindle ASIN: B01G50QX2C
From the New York Times bestselling author of Whistling in the Dark comes an unforgettable novel that illuminates the sweet and brittle bonds of family, the tenderness of growing up, the heartbreak of longing for what we’ve lost, and the poignancy of finding love.
FACT: Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, she’s in over her head.
PROOF: After hearing a scream and catching a glimpse of a mysterious man carrying a body beneath the flickering streetlights in the cemetery behind her house, Tessie adds solving a murder case to her already quite full to-do list.
Tessie has elected herself president of the crime-stopping Mutual Admiration Society—as if dealing with her “sad madness” over the tragic drowning of her beloved father; showering tender loving care on her “sweet but weird” younger sister, Birdie; and staying on the good side of their hard-edged mother weren’t enough. With partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield, Tessie and Birdie will need to dodge the gossips in their 1950s blue-collar neighborhood—particularly their evil next-door neighbor, Gert Klement, who’d like nothing better than to send the sisters to “homes.” And, of course, there’s the problem of steering clear of the kidnapping murderer if they have any hope of solving the mystery of all mysteries: the mystery of life.
FACT: Lesley Kagen captures the voices of children in a profound way.
PROOF: This story!
Set in Milwaukee Wisconsin, we meet 11 year old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, her younger sister, Birdie, and her “fiancee”, Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield. They make up the Mutual Admiration Society. Tessie is sure she saw a crime committed and the society needs to start its investigation right away. They just need to get around some house rules and Gert Klement, their next door neighbor, who is not their biggest fan. In fact, she believes they need to be sent away.
These characters were first introduced to readers in The Undertaking of Tess, released in 2014. While the author does give plenty of details so that this book can be read on its own, you may want to read the prior story first for more background on the Finley’s.
As a mystery lover I enjoyed Tessie and her lists and methodical investigation and that Birdie found a key clue and really helped Tessie figure out the suspected murder. Through the eyes of children in the late 1950’s I was able to see things in a different way. It was quite an adventure. Tessie has already dealt with so much in her young life and is responsible for watching over Birdie every day. Her lists do get a little repetitive but through them readers clearly see the way her mind works.
Kagen has crafted a heartwarming story but at times it is heartbreaking too. Her characters are so unique and the dialogue is true to a child’s voice and sprinkled liberally with humor. The world has changed since 1959. It was wonderful to escape back in time and tag along on this adventure with the Mutual Admiration Society.
I have enjoyed everything I have read by this author. She is an extremely talented storyteller.
Find out more about Lesley Kagen and her books on her webpage here.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”