Saturday, April 21, 2012

Alice's Review: More Like Her

Summary:  What really goes on behind those perfect white picket fences? In Frances’s mind, beautiful, successful, ecstatically married Emma Dunham is the height of female perfection. Frances, recently dumped with spectacular drama by her boyfriend, aspires to be just like Emma. So do her close friends and fellow teachers, Lisa and Jill. But Lisa’s too career-focused to find time for a family. And Jill’s recent unexpected pregnancy could have devastating consequences for her less-than-perfect marriage. Yet sometimes the golden dream you fervently wish for turns out to be not at all what it seems—like Emma’s enviable suburban postcard life, which is about to be brutally cut short by a perfect husband turned killer. And in the shocking aftermath, three devastated friends are going to have to come to terms with their own secrets . . . and somehow learn to move forward after their dream is exposed as a lie.

Review:  Look at the cover of More Like Her…three friends, legs crossed, high heels.   Total chick-lit.  Summary?  Girl loses boy, gets new boss, girl meets other boy.  Total chick-lit.   I read one novel by Liza Palmer before this one, Conversations with the Fat Girl.  Great book.  Great writer.  Total chick-lit.  What’s my point?  Oh, Liza Palmer pulled a fast one on us.

This starts as a classic novel about a few girlfriends and failed romance and turns into one of the best contemporary works of fiction I have read in a while. This novel is anything but typical. Ms. Palmer took a boy meets girl story and laced it with shock and tragedy. I knew from the summary there would be death. What I didn’t know was how it would come to fruition. It wasn’t what I expected. I was as stunned to experience it as the characters in the novel. It caught me off guard, I was genuinely shocked. I love that in a novel.

Frannie, our protagonist, shares her story with us in a voice that is refreshing and honest. A key plot point is her breakup with the perfect Ryan and subsequent blooming romance with architect Sam. This has the perfect funny debacles of romance characteristic of chick-lit. Frannie thinks too much, at times analyzing things to an exasperating level. She relies on her friends for guidance and support, and they give both with wisdom and with comedy. I was especially drawn to Jill, she reminded me of my BFF Roe. Ms. Palmer gives the reader multi-faceted characters. There was more to Frannie than her love life. And it’s this other part of her that gets tested, what shines in the face of this disaster. One would think romance and tragedy couldn’t coexist in the same story, but they do. And that’s the beauty of More Like Her, Ms. Palmer weaves them together organically.

There are two blemishes in this otherwise perfect novel. The first is that the ending was just a bit too conventional. I loved it, but for some reason it felt off. The second is the synopsis of this novel does not do it justice. Lisa does not come across as too career-focused, if anything she is the one whose heart is most opened to finding, giving and receiving love. Jill’s recent unexpected pregnancy isn’t revealed until the last 50 or so pages of the novel. This knowledge robs the reader of the surprise and makes us think it is a major plot point when in reality it is relatively insignificant.

Those two things aside, More Like Her is a page turning powerhouse.  I was riveted to the end.


Final Take:  4/5

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