I had to see what all the hype was about this book. For the last couple of months, people have been going crazy to get their hands on it. I was lucky enough to find a copy at a second-hand store (there was no way I was going to pay upwards of 30$ for something that was just a curiosity for me haha). But finding it so soon after the release date in a used bookstore made me question the book’s stellar reviews.
Did someone read it so fast, enjoy it, but didn’t have the shelf space to hold on to it?
Did someone read it quickly and hate it?
Or did someone buy it, read a chapter and then donate it…? Because the book was in terrific condition. The spine wasn’t cracked at all.
So if it’s option three, do I really want to read it?
I decided to give it a shot. One copy in a used book store hardly tarnishes the book’s potential. I decided to trust the reviews.
So here’s MY review…
I liked it. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it. Just liked it. I don’t know why it’s getting the buzz it has, but I was pleasantly entertained. Not something I would ever read again, but making it through without any guff is good enough for me.
The thing that really surprised me was how realistic these people were. The characters weren’t overly dramatic (tragic to the point where someone has two weeks to live or they have some crazy self realization that takes them on a dark journey, or too hopeful and loving where romance and family ties make you want to hurl), but rather they were quite normal. You have Melody the perfectionist who worries about her family image and her daughter’s new sexual preferences, Jack who doesn’t know how to properly support a relationship, Bea who can’t get her career together, and Stephanie who makes the same mistakes when it comes to Leo. And under all of this, they all worry abouy money. Now these problems could have taken a dramatic turn in the wrong direction, but the fact is that they all just deal with it. Their ending might not be the happiest, but they learn to adjust. Melody and her family find a new home and accept Nora’s new relationship (accept, not approve in the way you’d expect… Melody still wishes her daughter was straight so her life would be easier), Jack loses his partner but accepts being alone, Bea finally finds inspiration for a book, and Stephanie becomes a single parent. Most of what these characters do is not perfect, far from it actually, but that makes them more relatable.
Leo is the character you love to hate. He’s one of the biggest reasons for everyone’s problems (not saying they didn’t have issues without him, it’s just that Leo really brought them to life). He was a financial problem for Jack and Melody, and a physical problem for Bea and Stephanie. He really is a sociopath, as one of the characters exclaims; he only thinks of himself and can’t muster up the ability to empathize or fix things for everyone. He honestly believes leaving them all forever (without paying them back or accepting responsibility) is the best thing for them, but he only did it because it was best for him. He took his money and ran! What a dick…
And yet, it turns out that him leaving was better for everyone. Not the best, but better. I mean, he could have stayed and surprised everyone by paying his siblings and paying child support, or even worked hard to be a father and respectable member of the family. But since he couldn’t handle any of that, he did the next best thing and just buggered off. They didn’t need him in their lives. They may not have been as rich as they would have been with the nest, but at least they’re content with the alternative. The moment Leo left, the family actually became closer. I think it’s actually the cutest thing that they pushed their obsession with Leo onto Stephanie’s daughter, making her the new star of the family.
The one thing that I didn’t particularly like was the fact that most stories didn’t progress very far past the basics. It was probably because there were so many characters in the book that the reader has to follow around, making it so we only get about 5-8 chapters dedicated to each, if that. It’s like you can summarize each person’s story in a few sentences because nothing much happens…
Tommy took a statue from 9/11 reckage as a sign from his dead wife, but now he wants to get rid of it for fear of discovery. Jack helps at first as a black market deal, but then he decides to just anonymously return it.
Matilda and Leo get nasty in his car and get into an accident, resulting in the loss of her foot and a nice pay off from the Plumb family. She later falls in love with armless Vinnie after meeting Stephanie, Tommy, and seeing the 9/11 statue.
Louisa is worried that because her twin sister likes another girl, maybe she should too. After realizing they don’t have to be a mirror of each other, she goes to art school.
See what I mean? I could go on, but I’ll just let you read it… you’ll get the idea. Even the five main characters (Leo, Bea, Melody, Jack and Stephanie ) can have there stories summarized in a paragraph or two…
Maybe the book should have been longer? Or would that just drag it all out too much…?
Basically, I wasn’t given enough time to really care for the characters. I like that they’re normal and relatable for readers, but my heart didn’t go out to them in the end. I just said, “okay, I guess that makes sense for him/her. They get to move on…”, and then I closed the book and tossed it on the shelf.
So yes, I liked it enough and I’m glad I squashed my curiosity. It felt like I had a brief look into, lets say, my neighbor’s lives or something; not overly exciting, but something I wonder about nevertheless. We’re all nosey when it comes to people’s secrets, even if they’re below average. This book gives the reader the chance to be a bit nosey, if you will. So enjoy looking over the white – picket fence, book babies!