Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review: Real Life & Liars

Summary: Sometimes you find happiness where, and when, you least expect it.
For Mirabelle Zielinski's children, happiness always seems to be just out of reach. Her polished oldest daughter, Katya, clings to a stale marriage with a workaholic husband and three spoiled children. Her son, Ivan, so creative, is a down-in-the-dumps songwriter with the worst taste in women. And the "baby," impulsive Irina, who lives life on a whim, is now reluctantly pregnant and hitched to a man who is twice her age. On the weekend of their parents' anniversary party, lies will be revealed, hearts will be broken...but love will also be found. And the biggest shock may come from Mirabelle herself, because she has a secret that will change everything. -- Avon

I have had REAL LIFE AND LIARS by Kristina Riggle on my must-read list for awhile now. I first heard about the book because the author, Ms. Riggle, is one of this year's contributors to The Debutante Ball. I am a regular follower of this grog, and I make an effort to read every one of the debut novels that are written by the "debs." So far, I have never been disappointed. If you are looking for wonderful books by new authors, then you should definitely check out this site.

I am very happy to say that REAL LIFE AND LIARS was a fantastic book. I always seem to enjoy books that are heavy on character development and deal with intense family dynamics, so it wasn't a big surprise to me how much I appreciated this novel. I became absorbed in the story and the characters from the start and had a hard time putting this book down. I was also extremely touched by this story because it pointed out to me how difficult it can be for families to just get along with each other -- an all too real situation for many families. The parts of the book that dealt with resentment and sibling rivalry were very honest looks at dysfunctional families as well as terrific material for a story about family dynamics. I think many readers will relate in some way to this story.

I absolutely love how Ms. Riggle chose to tell this story. The book consisted of many brief chapters from Mira and her children's points-of-view. For some reason, this format really kept me reading because it seemed like each short chapter left me wanting for more. I thought it was so creative how even though the chapters told each person's part of the story, only Mira's chapters were written in first person narrative. I thought this was crucial to my enjoyment of the novel because I didn't always relate to Mira. Being able to get into Mira's head and "hear" all her thoughts really helped me to not only understand Mira, but also to better understand the entire family.

I also enjoyed all of the characters in this story, and I thought Ms. Riggle developed them so well. That's not to say that I would want to be friends with all of them, but I thought each character was very real and made the book very interesting. When I was first introduced to the characters, I wasn't quite sure that I was going to "like" any of them. Every character in the family had their fair share of issues; and I often times found myself wanting to knock some sense into them. It seemed to me that each member of the Zielinkski family was extremely self-absorbed and unappreciative. However, as I read their stories and learned more about them, I realized why they were like this and I was hopeful that they could change. I was saddened that it took a family crisis to make these characters aware of what's important in life; but if that's what it took to wake them up, then I guess something good came out of the bad.

It's almost hard to believe that REAL LIFE AND LIARS is Ms. Riggles' debut novel because it is just so good. I loved her writing style and how she told this story; and I think she did a marvelous job of developing the characters. If you'd like to learn more about Ms. Riggle and her book, you can listen to the BlogTalk Radio show that was taped a few months ago. In addition, there is a great section in the back of the book called A+ Author Insights, Extra, & More which includes discussion questions and an author Q&A. I was so excited to read that Ms. Riggle is already busy at work with another book that deals with complex family relationships -- I can't wait to read it.

REAL LIFE AND LIARS would make a marvelous book club discussion book! I would find it hard to believe that anyone would not enjoy this novel, and I can only imagine how much fun it would be to discuss this family and all their mixed-up dynamics. As I mentioned earlier, there are
discussion questions
located in the back of the book (if you feel like you need them.) Of course since I'm a sucker for books that deal with complicated family relationships, I appreciate the questions that focus on Mira and her dealing with her children. I also like the question that delves into what effect (if any) does birth order have on each of the three kids. Having said that, all of the questions are really very thought-provoking and sure to create a great deal of conversation.

A big thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this terrific novel.


ANovelMenagerie said...

You've been lucky with good books lately!

Anna said...

Sounds like a book I'd enjoy. Thanks for the review!

Diary of an Eccentric

Melanie said...

Thanks for sharing. I love to read character driven books. I will have to find a copy of this one.

bermudaonion said...

I love great character development and books about family dynamics. This one sounds like a winner to me!

Kristen said...

My Google Reader thanks you for the link to the Debs. ::sigh:: As for the book, I'm thrilled to hear it was good since I've exercised less than no restraint and bought it myself when I saw it at the bookstore. ;-)

Book Escape said...

I really like books heavy on characters and relationships, too. And, I think I've liked most of the books you've recommended. So, another one for the TBR!

Beth F said...

YOu are on a roll with great books. And my wish list is growing.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

Great review. This one looks good.