Review: Good Riddance by Eleanor Lipman

Title: Good Riddance

Author: Eleanor Lipman

Published: Houghton Mifflin February 2019

Status: Read from Feb 6th to Feb 6th 2019

Daphne Maritch doesn’t quite know what to make of the heavily annotated high school yearbook she inherits from her mother, who held this relic dear. Too dear. The late June Winter Maritch was the teacher to whom the class of ’68 had dedicated its yearbook, and in turn she went on to attend every reunion, scribbling notes and observations after each one—not always charitably—and noting who overstepped boundaries of many kinds. 

In a fit of decluttering (the yearbook did not, Daphne concluded, “spark joy”), she discards it when she moves to a small New York City apartment. But when it’s found in the recycling bin by a busybody neighbor/documentary filmmaker, the yearbook’s mysteries—not to mention her own family’s—take on a whole new urgency, and Daphne finds herself entangled in a series of events both poignant and absurd. “

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My Thoughts:

Meh.

I was underwhelmed by ‘Good Riddance’. The yearbook, and it’s potential, was a great hook for a story, but I found the plot superficial and banal. So too was Daphne, Lipman’s main protagonist.It was her father, Tom, that I liked most, and who I thought had the most complete character arc.

A quick, easy read, but not one I’d recommend unless you are a particular fan of the author.

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Review: I’ll Take What She Has by Samantha Wilde

Title: I’ll Take What She Has

Author: Samantha Wilde

Published: Bantam February 2013

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Status: Read from February 20 to 21, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Random House/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I’ll Take What She Has is a wry exploration of motherhood, marriage and mid life discontent as envy and resentment simmers between long time best friends Nora and Annie. Nora is newly married and desperate to have a child while Annie harbors a secret ambivalence as a stay at home mother to her two young daughters. When Cynthia Cypress arrives at Bixbie, Annie is predisposed to scorn her effortless sense of style and generous financial means but Nora is drawn to Cynthia’s glamorous facade and flattered to be courted by the new ‘queen’ on campus. As the relationship between Nora and Annie begins to deteriorate, both women find themselves wondering who they really are and who has what they really want.

Though the blurb implies the friendship between Annie and Nora is the focus for this novel, I feel the emphasis in I’ll Take What She Has is on the dynamics of motherhood. I’ll Take What She Has thoughtfully examines a wide range of related themes including adoption, infertility, marriage, family dysfunction and belonging. The author explores these issues through both her main protagonists and the minor characters in the story, providing a variety of perspectives that shows how each issue is complicated by the individual’s experience.

Thankfully Wilde’s rather caustic sense of humour offsets the serious elements of the novel. Between Nora’s freeloading, hard drinking cousin who dispenses free sex therapy and Annie’s barbed observations of her WASPy neighbours there are some funny scenes that lighten the tone.

The narrative shifts between Nora and Annie’s perspective creating well round characters, though to be honest I didn’t grow particularly fond of either of them. I’m not sure why exactly since many of their experiences mirror my own. I suppose I connect a little more with Annie as a mother who has parented a spirited child (or four) and I could relate to Annie’s ambivalence about her role. During my children’s early childhood I have variously worked full time, part time and been a stay at home parent and have found none of the situations ideal.

Overall, I thought I’ll Take What She Has to be an astute, entertaining novel exposing the complications of modern motherhood.

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