Friday, July 18, 2008

Review: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

Summary: When Paul Miller’s pharmaceutical company goes public, making his family IPO millionaires, his wife, Janice, is sure this is the windfall she’s been waiting years for — until she learns, via messengered letter, that her husband is divorcing her (for her tennis partner!) and cutting her out of the new fortune. Meanwhile, four hundred miles south in Los Angeles, the Millers’ older daughter, Margaret, has been dumped by her newly famous actor boyfriend and left in the lurch by an investor who promised to revive her fledgling post-feminist magazine, Snatch. Sliding toward bankruptcy and dogged by creditors, she flees for home where her younger sister Lizzie, 14, is struggling with problems of her own. Formerly chubby, Lizzie has been enjoying her newfound popularity until some bathroom graffiti alerts her to the fact that she’s become the school slut.

The three Miller women retreat behind the walls of their Georgian colonial to wage battle with divorce lawyers, debt collectors, drug-dealing pool boys, mean girls, country club ladies, evangelical neighbors, their own demons, and each other, and in the process they become achingly sympathetic characters we can’t help but root for, even as the world they live in epitomizes everything wrong with the American Dream. Exhilarating, addictive, and superbly accomplished, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything crackles with energy and intelligence and marks the debut of a knowing and very funny novelist, wise beyond her years. -- Spiegel & Grau

ALL WE EVER WANTED WAS EVERYTHING by Janelle Brown was a book that I received directly from the author through Author Buzz. I think the cover alone made me want to read it (I love this cover of a melted ice cream sundae), but the juicy storyline didn't hurt either. I am usually drawn to family dramas and this seemed like one big on the drama. Not to mention that the praise on the book jacket was extremely positive from the likes of Publishers Weekly, Ayelet Waldman and Katherine Taylor.

I did enjoy this book, but it took me a little while to feel anything positive for any of the characters in the book! I realize that I don't have to like the characters or feel anything in common with them to appreciate a book, but this family was definitely hard to like. Between the four of them, they represented seemed to cover almost every moral issue debated in today's society -- drugs, alcohol, teenage sex, divorce, credit card debt, obscene wealth, feminism, etc.

The book was above all highly satirical in nature, and I think that's what I enjoyed the most. I thought Ms. Brown's writing style was very easy to read, while also packing quite a few punches. Portraying these women as stereotypes of a society too caught up in what other people think was very effective. While I couldn't really relate to their specific problems, I was forced to examine myself and my priorities a few times while reading this story.

I loved the quotation by J.M. Barrie that Ms. Brown chose to use at the beginning of the book, and I thought it summed up one of the major messages from the book: "We are all failures; at least, the best of us are." I think all of these women had to hit rock bottom before they were able to see what was truly important in their lives. Although these characters went through a lot within the book's 400+ pages, at least the book ended on an upbeat note for them. I would be very curious "to see" what happens to each of the characters beyond ALL WE EVER WANTED WAS EVERYTHING.

I'm not sure that this book would be ideal for the women in my book club (we live in Central PA and don't have much in common with this family), but I do think a lot of book clubs would really enjoy reading and discussing this novel. I took a quick look at the reader's guide, and I just loved the questions. A few of them really made me think. While this book is very entertaining (and at times very witty), there are still many important issues to talk about (especially in today's "me-me-me" society.)

I do recommend this book if you are looking for a smart, sharp read. It really is ideal to read over the summer months because this family's life is filled with lots of juicy scandal!


Cheryl said...

Yes the cover is very tasty looking and teh summary sounds good.

Jill said...

Your review is dead on. Definitely an intriguing family drama, even though the characters are hard to relate to specifically...and I did enjoy the writer's style. We felt the exact same way about this book.

Bree said...

I read and reviewed the book also and wanted to know what happened after "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything."

S. Krishna said...

Great review, this one has been on my TBR list!

Anonymous said...

I just finished this one myself. You put it perfectly!

photoquest said...

Awesome review can't wait to get my copy. I saw this book where it was coming out but haven't read any reviews yet so i'm glad I got to read yours.

LisaMM said...

Hi Julie! I reviewed this too and linked up your review.