I really enjoyed reading this book, and then talking about it at our book club meeting.
The strength of this book was in the characters. Each one had an aspect I identified with. Each also had something about them that made me want to slap them upside the head. Some were closer to one part of this than the other. They were all wonderfully complicated.
Mirabelle is the hippy mom that tried very hard to impart her values (forcing non-conformity!) on her oldest child, but relaxed some when it came to her youngest. Now her children are grown, and she’s facing a very personal challenge. She wants to handle it on her own terms, but realizes this won’t go over well with her family.
Katya has gone the other way with her kids, letting them have everything they want. As they become teens, she’s realizing that maybe this wasn’t the best path. Her husband has secrets, and she’s afraid she knows what they are.
Ivan is a wannabe songwriter with a fantastic (female) best friend and a very complicated love life.
Irina is the youngest. She’s having a hard time being a grownup, and has made some bad decisions along the way. Now she’s pregnant and realizing that she’d better grow up quickly, and isn’t sure she’s up for the challenge.
Even more than the individual characters, I enjoyed their relationships with each other. One character says that whenever she gets together with one of her siblings, the other sibling is the preferred topic of conversation. She assumes that when they talk, she comes up in the conversation. They rarely agree with one another, but when Irina was in trouble, she turned to big brother Ivan.
As the family meets up for what she be a celebratory occasion, they all have their own crises to deal with.
I found the alternating points of view helpful in understanding each character– sometimes one of the others had better insight than they did about themselves.
I appreciated the light hand the author had with serious subjects. There were a number of genuinely funny moments, and there was often an element of humor in the character’s perspectives.
This was an honest book dealing with family and life in a very enjoyable form.
Author Leah Stewart organized an amazing contest on Facebook. I didn’t win, but another book club member did: ten copies of twelve different books! So far, she’s received and distributed eight of them. I’m not sure whether we are going to read and discuss all of them, but I was very excited about this one, and encouraged the group to get to it quickly.
Most of the group liked it. I think we all enjoyed the discussion, both of the book itself, and tying it to our lives and those of people we knew.
The biggest problem people had with the book was with Mirabelle’s decision on how to handle her situation. Some of us understood why she made that choice, at least at the time she made it, and others didn’t. We talked about it quite a while, but I don’t think anyone changed their mind.
Our lone male club member (who is an incredibly good sport about reading books he would never pick up on his own) had some other issues with it. He didn’t find Ivan’s voice to be convincingly male. None of the rest of us noticed this, but didn’t disagree when he pointed it out. He also had a different take on Katya and some of her actions than the rest of us did, which also made for good conversation.
I’d recommend this book for reading group discussion.