Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship

Summary: What makes a wife a lover?For Kate, the spark went out of her marriage long ago but her husband doesn't seem to notice. Their role as parents consumes their lives so they need to rekindle the romance they once shared.

What makes a woman a mother?
For Jo, a high-powered career has led her to believe that she doesn't have a single maternal instinct. When an orphan unexpectedly enters her life, she is forced to confront her own unhappy childhood and the walls it has built around her heart.

What makes a man the love of your life?
For Sarah, home is the steamy jungles of Africa while the man of her dreams waits in the air-conditioned confines of Los Angeles. Her longing for this man from the past is blinding her to a new love standing right in front of her.

What these women all have in common is a friend with a generous soul, an irrepressible spirit- and a serious illness. In her final letters, Rachel raises one last question:  

What makes a friend live in our hearts forever? -- Five Spot

When I first saw THE PROPER CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF FRIENDSHIP by Lisa Verge Higgins, I was immediately drawn to the novel because it looked like a book that I'd enjoy. You know the type -- one about a group of very different women who are brought together by the strength of their friendship. I was expecting a light fun read -- kind of chick lit for grown-ups, if you know what I mean. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and scope of this novel.

I did find the plot of THE PROPER CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF FRIENDSHIP to be a good one with lots of potential for character growth. This book tells the story of three women -- Kate, Jo, and Sarah.  When their good friend Rachel dies of cancer, she leaves a letter behind for each of them with her "one final wish." She asks each women to do something outside their normal comfort zone -- one request more demanding/crazy than the next. When each woman accepts Rachel's request, they ultimately end up not only fulfilling her wishes, but they also end up learning a great deal about themselves in the process. Even (or should I say especially) from the grave, Rachel was an extremely special friend. She actually knew her friends better than they knew themselves -- and that's really saying something.

I did enjoy this novel quite a bit and I thought Ms. Higgins' writing was strong, especially her character development. I appreciated that the story and some of the characters were funny, but I really liked how much this novel touched my heart. I know I'm a sucker for books with messages about women and friendships, and this one had all of those terrific elements. Having said that, the book was not entirely predictable, but I wasn't really surprised by any of the characters' stories either.

While I definitely enjoyed this novel, I didn't love all of the characters. Of course, each woman was flawed -- some more than others and there were times that I was frustrated with all three; however, there was one in particular that really irked me. I thought I would most relate to the stay-at-home mom, Kate. It appeared that I probably had the most in common with her, and yet I could barely stand her for much of the novel. (An analyst would probably have a field day with me and my issues about Kate!) As I read the book, I knew she'd eventually "come around" but I had a very hard time sympathizing with her.

I did find that the characters of Jo and Sarah were much more interesting to me. I especially enjoyed Sarah's story and liked that the book followed Sarah and her work to remote and impoverished countries. I also enjoyed Jo a great deal, and I absolutely loved how much she grew as a person by the end of the novel. Despite having a hard time with Kate, I did feel that these three characters were perfect complements to each other -- kind of like their friendship.

THE PROPER CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF FRIENDSHIP should be a popular pick among book clubs, especially ones with my club's demographics -- late 30s/early 40s, wives, and moms. I am pretty confident in saying that almost all women will relate to this novel and its characters. There is a reading group guide available with thirteen thought-provoking questions. I think that there are some wonderful things to discuss including death, loss, grief, forgiveness, marriage, motherhood, friendship, family dynamics, sacrifice, and many more.

I definitely recommend THE PROPER CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF FRIENDSHIP to female readers who enjoy books about the strength of female friendships. It will entertain you and touch your heart!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I'm really curious about Rachel's requests! The book sounds good to me.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This does sound like a great bookclub choice!

Anonymous said...

I love the title and cover of this book. I do love books about women and friendships. I'm looking forward to reading this one.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

This is another one I keep hearing about! And it does sound very intriguing! Usually in a book with all of these characters, I definitely have my favorites, too:)

Sandy Nawrot said...

A small group of friends of mine from high school tend to be drawn to books like this, then we pass it around to each other. I like that it isn't predictable, as most of them are. I'm going to have to hunt this one down.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I read about this on goodreads and was intrigued by it. Reading your review makes me think I would most definitely enjoy it.

Barbara said...

yes, PROPER CARE does sounds like a great reading group pick.

Thanks so much for stopping by On the Bookcase. I didn't intend to make you jealous. maybe I will do a giveaway to spread out the loot!

Swapna said...

I think this one sounds interesting, though I'm not sure about it. Thanks for the review!

Beth F said...

I'm glad you said you were "pleasantly surprised by the depth and scope of this novel." You know that I have trouble with some women's fiction, but this one might work for me.

E said...

I really enjoyed this book too. I also agree with you that Kate was the most infuriating character, I wanted to scream at her for quite a lot of the book, but I still think that her story (however irritating) had an important message to it too.

If you're at all interested, here's my own review :)