Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

The Overdue Life of Amy BylerThe Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelly Harms’s first novel, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane, had me laughing out loud and almost crying with understanding; her second novel, The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay had me falling in love – mostly with the small Minnesota town but this, her third, lacked, in my opinion, the plot development of those other two novels. Still, it got me thinking, which seemed to be the whole point.

Amy Byler, the central character of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is a dedicated librarian raising two children on her own after her husband went on a business trip to Japan and decided to stay there, abandoning his wife and their life.  Three years later he returns asking for a chance to get to know his children.  Amy has all kinds of reactions to his return but when their children decide (reluctantly) to give their father a chance, she is left with a week to herself and an opportunity to visit NYC and take a little time for herself.  When her husband asks for more time, the real adventure that is her #momspringa begins.

Amy is another of Harms’s lovable, relatable, recognizable characters and the supporting characters are well-rounded and endearing (even, at times, John). But there seemed to be little more to the story than a character you rooted for (and, pretty often, wanted to be!) and a couple of interesting ideas – #momspringa and Flexthology (not quite sure that was the name of the reading program Amy wanted to introduce in her school but it was a neat idea). I enjoyed reading The Overdue Life of Amy Byler because I liked Amy but the whole thing often seemed like an extension of the fictional article at the center of her New York adventure. What story there was, was fun, sometimes funny yet predictable (not necessarily a bad thing). Maybe I would have appreciated it more if I were a mother or wife (not that I couldn’t use a 3-month break from the every day!)

While I may not have been able to appreciate the Amy’s particular turmoil, there are other novels about single motherhood (or all motherhood for that matter) and the conflicting emotions that come with it that I also enjoyed despite never having been in their shoes.  I enjoyed Not Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan and I highly recommend One Plus One by Jojo Moyes.  If you enjoy Harms’s style, I would also recommend reading her other two novels, especially The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane which is one of my favorite reads of recent years.

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Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: Not Perfect

Not PerfectNot Perfect by Elizabeth LaBan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Elizabeth LaBan’s Not Perfect has a few things in common with the book I finished just prior to reading this one, Big, Little, Lies – a few hazy facts, lots of unanswered questions, distracting hints, and possible death (so it wasn’t surprising that the main character Not Perfect is reading another of Liane Moriarty’s novels). The fact that I’d just finished that brilliant work didn’t do Not Perfect any favors. Don’t get me wrong, Not Perfect is an enjoyable read but I couldn’t help comparing it to Big, Little, Lies. I know I shouldn’t do that so I’ll attempt to review it without the comparisons.
Not Perfect is the story of a woman, Tabitha, whose husband has simply abandoned her and their two children with seemingly no way to contact him and no clue as to where he’s gone. Tabitha’s reaction to their increasingly desperate situation had me asking myself if I would do the same things she did in order to keep her children fed and healthy. And if I would have broken my silence sooner. I didn’t always like Tabitha or her choices but she wasn’t deserving of the cruel treatment by her husband with his threats and secrets. Stuart poisoned this book for me. His motivation (not that there could ever be good motivation for abandoning your children) was pitiful. So you felt trapped in your life; so you ended up with the wrong woman; so you are heartbroken. None of those are excuses for allowing your children to go hungry. I longed to reach into the pages and slap the man silly. And then to slap Tabitha for her underwhelming reaction to his return and his pleas. I hope I’m not giving too much away.
Apart from my passionate dislike for Stuart, I never really connected emotionally with the characters. I think they could have been more development had there not been so many events in such a short book. I wanted to want root for Tabitha, and Toby and I wanted to learn more about Nora and the money. I guess that’s what’s left me so unsatisfied – I have unanswered questions and disappointing conclusions.

Recommendation:  Read this book first and then read Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies

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