Since it worked out so well last week and with Debra's suggestion to shake things up a bit, I thought I'd try book reviews on Monday for a while. Then we can talk about Monday night TV on Tuesdays! I know, it's so perfect!
Today I'd like to tell you about Olivia by Julie Wright. Olivia is a woman who is trying hard to build the perfect home life on the outside. She does everything a dutiful wife and mother should, but when she spends hours making a perfect anniversary dinner and sits there alone while the candles melt to nubs, she realizes that everything is not perfect in her marriage. And to top it all off, she feels like she's lost her own identity.
When her husband comes home and doesn't even apologize for missing the dinner, Olivia realizes she needs to make some changes in her life. She sees a flapping flier advertising a book club and joins it which brings an entirely new dimension to her life. Of course that dimension becomes a lifeline as she starts to really address the problems in her marriage and family. I loved the introduction of each lady in the book club and their distinct personalities as they provide support for Olivia in their own way. It's clever since the other characters in the Newport Ladies Book Club will each be the main character in their own book. (I believe the next one comes out in June and is by Josi Kilpack.)
The thing I like about Olivia is the thing that all Julie Wright fans like about her writing. It's very visceral. Julie takes her readers down to the mat with the emotions of her characters and then pushes it two feet more. She engages you on such a realistic level it feels like you are right there experiencing a distant marriage that may be on its last legs combined with trying to deal with step-children who don't know where to turn or how to act and feeling exhausted by it all. It's a basic human emotion to want love and to be able to give love and Julie Wright taps into that while giving you so much more. If you read her book My Not So Fairy Tale Life, you'll know what I'm talking about---emotions written so well you really feel the punch in the gut surprise or the happy feeling that make you smile in a goofy way that would scare people if you were in public. Visceral. It's the only way to explain it.
Olivia has all of that and more. It's the story of a woman's journey in finding friendships, figuring out her marriage and family, but most of all discovering the strength she has within herself.
As I mentioned this book is the start of a series written by four separate authors. I think Julie Wright has set the bar high for the rest of the authors and I'll be anxiously waiting to see what happens to the ladies of the Newport Book Club.
Here is the back copy:
The Robbins household looks perfect from the outside: no dust, no stains, no wrinkles. Yet a glimpse into its heart reveals no laughter, no closeness, no joy. Olivia thinks that if she keeps everything tidy and serves delicious meals on time, family life is bound to get better. But when her husband, Nick, misses their anniversary, she realizes no amount of domestic success will compensate for failure in their marriage, or for her own failure to develop her identity, always busy as a mother, wife, and neighbor, she has forgotten how to be a unique and vibrant individual. Determined to make a change, Olivia joins a local book club, where she nurtures new friendships and explores new ideas. But her growing confidence falters when Nick declares his independence, and while her new friends lovingly encircle her with support, only Olivia can reach into the depths of her fledgling self to find the faith, hope, and love her troubled family needs.