Friday, July 9, 2010

Review: Fly Away Home

Summary: Sometimes all you can do is fly away home . . .

When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips, and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician's wife—her hair dyed and straightened, her hippie-chick wardrobe replaced by tailored knit suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her husband, the senator.

Lizzie, the Woodruffs' younger daughter, is at twenty-four a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, trouble always seems to find her. Her older sister, Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve—a husband, a young son, the perfect home—and yet she's trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER's exam rooms, she finds herself craving more.

After Richard's extramarital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider her life, who she is and who she is meant to be.

Written with an irresistible blend of heartbreak and hilarity, Fly Away Home is an unforgettable story of a mother and two daughters who after a lifetime of distance finally learn to find refuge in one another. -- Atria

I think I've read every book that Jennifer Weiner has even written. For the most part, I find that I really enjoy her books. Of course, there have been a few that I have absolutely adored, and that's one of the reasons that Ms. Weiner pops into my head when people ask me who some of my favorite authors are. I recently read her latest novel FLY AWAY HOME and I'm so happy to say that this book had all of the elements that I've come to expect (and love) from a Jennifer Weiner story.

At its core, FLY AWAY HOME is really about a mother and her two daughters who are all facing a major crisis in their lives. Initially all the woman internalize their pain; however, throughout the course of the novel, they eventually turn to each other and find that their shared love helps to heal each one of them. It is a touching story about pain and loss, but it is also an uplifting story about the strength and resilience of women. I really, really liked FLY AWAY HOME!

The novel begins when Sylvie, the "perfect" wife of a politician, discovers that her husband had an affair with a younger woman. (Could this part of the story be any more timely?) In the mean time, Sylvie's oldest daughter Diana is so unhappy in her "perfect" life and "perfect" marriage that she turns to another man for comfort. And, Sylvie's youngest daughter Lizzie is a recovering addict who is trying to start over in her new life. Needless to say, all three women are not only dealing with very personal issues, but they are also dealing with these issues in the public spotlight.

In today's society, we have certainly seen the politician/adultery story occur many times; however, I think Ms. Weiner managed to create a fantastic (and very real) character in Sylvie. Despite her successful mother's warnings, Sylvie basically "gave up" her career aspirations (and really, her life) to be the ideal politician's wife. Even though it was her decision and one that she wanted to make, she still was living with the constant pressure of being "perfect." At times, she even sacrificed her daughters' well-being if it was beneficial for her husband and his career.

So when Sylvie discovered her husband's infidelity, I think it was even more painful because she viewed her life as one that revolved around him. She began to question all of the choices and and decisions that she had made in her life. All of a sudden, she was forced to look at herself and ask what she wanted out of life. As the novel progressed, I ending up liking Sylvie more and more; and I really liked seeing how her character evolved.

I also appreciated how Ms. Weiner developed the characters of Diane and Lizzie. I admit that I had a very difficult time liking Diane for most of the novel, and it wasn't until the end that I actually started seeing some positive qualities in her and even feeling some compassion towards her. I realize that Diane was a troubled soul because she was such a perfectionist and high achiever; and I could accept that she married the wrong guy. However, I had a very difficult time accepting how much she bashed her husband - it was just so mean-spirited (although it was in keeping with her character.) It's sad, but I think Diane was the type of person who had to hit rock bottom before she would ever make any positive changes.

Lizzie was another troubled soul, yet I really liked her and found myself rooting for her! She was a recovering drug addict who was determined to set her life back on track. Not only was she dealing with difficult urges to use drugs again (especially given the stresses in her life), but she was also trying to repair the relationships with her family. Despite her addiction, I really felt that Lizzie was a victim of her upbringing -- her absentee parents and domineering sister. Like the other two women, Lizzie was trying to figure out who she was and learn to like herself. However, she was also dealing with the huge issue of forgiveness -- especially as it pertained to forgiving herself.

As is the case with most Jennifer Weiner books, FLY AWAY HOME deals with so many "real" issues that woman face. Of course, most of us aren't going to be dealing with a husband's or father's betrayal on CNN; however, many women in today's do share these character's feelings of unhappiness and insecurity. In addition, I think many women will relate to the mother/daughter relationships and the sisters' relationship in this novel as well as the healing process that each woman experiences.

Based on the story as well as the themes explored in the novel, I think FLY AWAY HOME is an ideal book club selection. There is a reader's guide available which touches on many of the issues that I mentioned earlier. Some of the topics that might come up in your meeting include love, pressures from society, adultery, addiction, secrets, embarrassment, trust, forgiveness, redemption, acceptance, starting over, parent/child relationships, and friendships. I really think my book club would have a wonderful time discussing this novel. And, I'd be very interested in hearing what others thing about each of the character's future.

I am so happy to recommend FLY AWAY HOME. If you are a fan of Jennifer Weiner's or enjoy solid women's fiction, they I'm pretty sure that you will enjoy this novel.

Thanks to Engelman and Co. for sending me a copy of this novel.


DCMetroreader said...

Wow this sounds fabulous! THis sounds a bit like the sad tale of Elizabeth Edwards or the South Carolina gov's wife.

I loved Weiner's Good in Bed, but was so so about In Her Shoes. I'm putting this on my TBR list.

bermudaonion said...

I love to read about strong women! You've made me really excited about this one!

Anonymous said...

I've been a fan of Jennifer Weiner's since GOOD IN BED, which had a woman of a "certain size" as the main character.

I'm excited that she has a woman of a "certain age" as one of the main protagonists here. As I get older, I seem to really like the self-actualization stories that I'm reading. I'm look forward to reading this one and am glad that it struck such a chord with you.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I don't think I've ever read one of her books. I think that might make me Un-American! I certainly haven't avoided her, so I don't know what my problem is. You know, I look at these sensationalized infidelity stories, and I always wonder and worry about the wives. How awful it must be to go through that. So this novel is certainly relevant. (I just shake my head sometimes...what the hell are people thinking???)

Beth Hoffman said...

I've not read anything of Jennifer's since Good In Bed. I might have to pick this one up. Great review, Julie!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

She's writing too fast! I still haven't gotten to Best Friends Forever yet!

JHS said...

I agree with your review! Read this book, too, and my review will be published on Monday, July 12, at Colloquium. I really enjoyed Weiner's writing style & the way she story unfolded. Very clever and completely held my interest.


Florinda said...

Fantastic review, Julie! I just finished this one today, and I loved it - may be Weiner's best yet. My reactions were very similar to yours.

Beth Kephart said...

A very convincing review. I may have to read this one.

Beth F said...

I bet this would make a good book club selection -- seems that there would be a lot to talk about.

Shonda said...

I just picked this up from the library on Friday. My first read of hers was Best Friends Forever and quite honestly I wasn't impressed. Having said that, I wanted to read more of her books and thought Fly Away Home would be the one I'd enjoy. Glad to hear you really liked it. I am looking forward to reading it.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I've seen great buzz about this new release (in addition to your wonderful review). The situation does sound sadly plausible, which must make for an interesting novel.