Saturday, March 3, 2012

Julie's Review: Skipping a Beat

Summary: What would you do if your husband suddenly wanted to rewrite all of the rules of your relationship? This is the question at the heart of Skipping a Beat, Pekkanen’s thought-provoking second book. From the outside, Julia and Michael seem to have it all. Both products of difficult childhoods in rural West Virginia – where they were simply Julie and Mike – they become high school sweethearts and fall in love. Shortly after graduation, they flee their small town to start afresh. Now thirty-somethings, they are living a rarified life in their multi-million-dollar, Washington D.C. home. Julia is a highly sought-after party planner, while Michael has just sold his wildly successful flavored water company for $70 million. But one day, Michael collapses in his office. Four minutes and eight seconds after his cardiac arrest, a portable defibrillator jump-starts his heart. But in those lost minutes he becomes a different man. Money is meaningless to him - and he wants to give it all away. Julia, who sees bits of her life reflected in scenes from the world’s great operas, is now facing with a choice she never anticipated. Should she should walk away from the man she once adored – but who truthfully became a stranger to her long before this pronouncement - or give in to her husband's pleas for a second chance and a promise of a poorer but happier life? As wry and engaging as her debut, but with quiet depth and newfound maturity, Skipping a Beat is an unforgettable portrait of a marriage whose glamorous surface belies the complications and betrayals beneath.  

Review: Skipping a Beat is a wonderful novel about what it is that you really want out of life. If life threw you a curve ball, would you strike out or would you hit it? I knew this one was going to be a tear-jerker because I had been warned by Jen @Devourer of Books. Regardless of that warning, I soldiered on reading it on a flight. I'm typically not embarrassed to cry in public but at certain points in this novel, I wanted to sob.

Julia is easy to like and identify with even if you aren't sure you necessarily agree with her initial reaction. I mean I don't have $70M for my husband to decide to give away so I had to step into Julia's shoes to understand why her initial reaction was anger.

What I loved about this novel was the was Ms. Pekkanen told us the story of Julia and Michael; how they got to where they were in their marriage. The flashbacks to them falling in love, being newlyweds and Michael's early/quick success with his water company were a key as a reader to connect with them and to care about them. Even though the novel is told from Julia's point of view, I never disliked Michael. In fact, because of the wonderful storytelling, I liked him even if he was causing Julia pain.

I liked who Michael became after his death experience but I can understand why his line of thinking through Julia for a loop. This wasn't the Michael she knew anymore. What she begins to uncover is that she really didn't like the Michael who was successful and perhaps she didn't even love him anymore.  Over the course of the novel we see both Julia and Michael transform but perhaps it was Julia who was affected the most over the 3 weeks. We see her go from anger and bitter, to confused, to at peace and happy.

So much of Julia and Michael's success was driven by their childhood experiences and how they wanted to escape their pasts. Do we ever escape our pasts when it shapes our future and who we are? Aren't we always linked to it?

There is so much underlying meaning in this novel. If you've been married for a decent amount of time you know that no marriage is perfect no matter what people want to show on the outside. What matters is how you handle those lulls, those rocky periods. What matters is that you remember why you fell in love with your spouse and how you can grow together. Is it easy no because life gets in the way?

I am so thrilled that I discovered Ms. Pekkanen's novels. She has a new one, These Girls, due out in April 2012 and I can't wait to read it.

Final Take: 4.75/5



sarah pekkanen March 4, 2012 at 4:18 PM  

Such a wonderful, thoughtful review - I'm so grateful you took the time to read Skipping a Beat!

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