Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Long Weekend Reads

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen

I was drawn to this book as the author was described as similar in style to Jennifer Weiner.  While I enjoyed the book, as far as easy weekend read go, I would not say the author's intelligent humour or character development was on par with Weiner's.  In this book 4 old friends from college travel to Jamaica to celebrate one of their birthdays.  The "birthday boy" was clearly the loveable nerd in college who had befriended the three women.  His wife plans the elaborate party to show off his wealth (and hers) but her party is almost ruined for her by the illness of her severely handicapped sister, whose handicap she has minimized for her husband.  The three women are interesting - one is the overwrought  mother of four young children who is accompanied by her caveman of a husband who she is still in love with despite her extreme stress.  The second is struggling with recently learning she may have inherited a fatal disease from her birth father (she's adopted).  She keeps it secret except from the birthday boy who reveals he was in love with her in college - bringing them closer together, but when she is almost swept away by a hurricane she realizes how much her easy going husband does care about her.  The last member of the group is about to be divorced from her doctor husband who left her for the proverbial younger nurse.  She is there to prove she is still young enough to attract even younger men - when her husband phones begging for another chance.  She sets what she believes is an impossible demand for him to come to Jamaica the next day - which he does.  Thus the four couples end up weathering a hurricane in a boarded up house on the coast - and learning about themselves and each other in the process.

Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg

This easy to read novel centres on Cecilia (or Cece) who is a single, motivational speaker dissatisfied with her own life after her best friend dies of cancer.  At the urging of her widowed mother, who is embarking on a new relationship of her own, she sells her house and moves into a rental home with three other women - Lise, the home's owner who is a divorced doctor constantly at odds with her 20 year old daughter; Joni, a sous chef who struggles under the thumb of a mean-spirited boss and Renie, a lesbian who admits (early on but still a spoiler alert) that she gave up a baby as a teenager.  The four women quickly bond and decide to go on a road trip to confront their pasts - Cece to reunite with an old flame who has been living in the south Pacific; Lise to meet up with her ex-husband to try to figure out what to do about their daughter; and Renie to find the baby (now young woman) who she gave up for adoption.  (Joni and the big dog are just along for the ride).  While not a lot happens, it's interesting to see how the women bond and how much Cece learns about her life once she takes a break from giving everybody else advice.

Family Pictures by Jane Green

Sylvie lives in California with her daughter and her second husband (her first died) to whom she seems happily married though her husband travels to New York for half of every month.  Maggie lives in Connecticut on the outskirts of New York City with her three children and her handsome, and rich husband, who spends half his time travelling.  Sylvie was raised by an abusive French mother who has been injured in a car accident which makes her even less pleasant.  She plants seeds of doubt in Sylvie about the state of her marriage - which Sylvie works hard to ignore.  She is unable, however, to ignore the mounting evidence of her daughter's eating disorder (which may also have been fuelled by her grandmother's insensitive comments about her weight).  In an effort to please her daughter, Sylvie allows her to travel to New York with a friend, without telling her stepfather who would not approve.  There she befriends Maggie's daughter and when she visits her house in Connecticut a terrible secret is revealed.  I won't spoil the book by telling the secret here though it is fairly easy to guess early on.  The remainder of the book deals with the fallout for Sylvie, Maggie and their families.  I read this in one day - it's by no means great literature but it's an entertaining read.

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