Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: When You Were Mine


Susannah has been living with Doug for eight years, acting as stepmother to his three unappreciative children and wondering why she doesn't mind much when he sometimes sleeps in his study. She's known her best friend Amelia since they were teenagers. Amelia never minces words, and Susannah doesn't like hearing what Amelia has to say about her noncommittal relationship. 

At her brother's wedding, Susannah runs into Rob—her first love, the love of her life. There's no band on his ring finger, and Susannah begins to fantasize. Her fantasies turn to reality when Rob gives her a call. Susannah's world is rocked by her rekindled feelings for Rob, then totally turned upside down by a revelation from Amelia. Just when Susannah and Amelia need each other the most, they are facing a crisis that threatens to tear their friendship apart. Without her familiar guiding star, Susannah must finally make some hard choices in order to grow up for good, no matter who or what she has to leave behind. 

Heartwarming, wise, and sophisticated, When You Were Mine is a story about first loves, best friends, and choices that will resonate with readers everywhere. -- Touchstone

I've always been a big fan of Elizabeth Noble's books. In fact, one of my highlights from BEA 2009 was meeting her and telling her how much I enjoy her books (Truthfully, I didn't get to "meet' her. More like she signed a book for me!) I think I've read almost all of her books (and the one or two that I haven't gotten around to yet are sitting on my bookshelves), so when I learned that she has a new one out called WHEN YOU WERE MINE, I jumped at the chance to read it.

I enjoyed WHEN YOU WERE MINE, but I think it's safe to say that it wasn't my favorite Ms. Noble novel. I really liked the concept the story  -- a woman (close to my age) rediscovers her high school sweetheart and has a second chance at true love. I appreciated how Ms. Noble chose to tell this story by using lots of flashbacks, and I really liked how complex (and by that, I mean troubled) Susannah was. In addition, I liked that the story had a few twists at the end and that it wasn't tied up neatly with a sweet little bow. However, there were parts of this story that dragged a bit for me and I didn't find myself rushing back to it after I put down the book.

Having said that I did enjoy WHEN YOU WERE MINE and I especially liked how it did address some very universal themes. I did like many of the flashbacks to the high school scenes because it brought back so many  memories of my own about boys, dating and first love. I thought that Ms. Noble did a terrific job of capturing the essence of first love (both the excitement and the nerves), and I felt as if her portrayal of teen relationships was spot on.

In addition, I was pleasantly surprised by how much this novel touched my heart. It was sweet to revisit first love and high school and think about second chances; and I really liked the dynamics of Susannah and Amelia and their long-time friendship. However, there were also quite a few heavy issues in this novel which affected me in a different way. Parts of this book touched upon broken hearts, cancer, the loss of parents, step-parenting, divorce, miscarriage, and the effects of war. Despite all of these serious topics, I appreciated that the book addressed so many of them because I think these issues are ones that so many of us face during our lives.

I have to admit that I didn't always like Susannah and that may have been one of the reasons that I got slightly bored with portions of this novel. At times, I thought she was incredibly selfish and I have to say I got pretty irked with her and just wanted to slap her upside the head. It seemed as if I actually liked many of the supporting characters in this book (Rob, Rob's parents, her father, her best friend Amelia, Amelia's husband, etc.) more than I liked Susannah much of the time. However, I guess it's a good thing that I was caught up enough in the story to have such strong feelings about Susannah!

I do think WHEN YOU WERE MINE would make a good book club pick. Evidently, I'm not alone since Touchstone made a Summer 2011 Reading Group Sampler which includes WHEN YOU WERE MINE along with five other great-looking books! I have a feeling that things could get pretty interesting while discussing this novel because I'm pretty sure that members will have differing opinions about Susannah and Rob's relationship. Of course, there is a reading guide available which touches upon so many of the interesting topics in this book. Some things you might want to further explore include all types of love -- romantic, parent/child, friendship, etc., obligation/duty, caring for elderly parents, illness, duty, grief, commitment, marriage, stability, loss, and second chances. (I just stopped with those few, but this list could go on and on....)

I do recommend WHEN YOU WERE MINE to fans of women's fiction and book clubs!

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


Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I adore Noble's writing; I've been a fan from the beginning. I can't wait to start reading this one!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I always love that fantasy of high school sweethearts rediscovering each other!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

I've heard good things about this book in terms of book clubs :) said...

I've somehow missed Noble's books. I'm going to have to fix that but I think I'll start with one of her other titles and work my way towards this one.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, it sounds like there are a lot of issues in this one. I'm not sure I'd want to see any of my high school boyfriends again.

Swapna said...

Glad you enjoyed this one (even if you didn't love it!) I have it to review and am looking forward to reading it.