Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: The Meryl Streep Movie Club

Summary: In the bestselling tradition of The Friday Night Knitting Club and The Jane Austen Book Club, three women find unexpected answers, happiness, and one another, with Meryl Streep movies as their inspiration.

Two sisters and the cousin they grew up with after a tragedy are summoned home to their family matriarch’s inn on the coast of Maine for a shocking announcement. Suddenly, Isabel, June, and Kat are sharing the attic bedroom—and barely speaking. But when innkeeper Lolly asks them to join her and the guests in the parlor for weekly Movie Night—it’s Meryl Streep month—they find themselves sharing secrets, talking long into the night . . . and questioning everything they thought they knew about life, love, and one another.

Each woman sees her complicated life reflected through the magic of cinema: Isabel’s husband is having an affair, and an old pact may keep her from what she wants most . . . June has promised her seven-year-old son that she will somehow find his father, who he’s never known . . . and Kat is ambivalent about accepting her lifelong best friend’s marriage proposal. Through everything, Lolly has always been there for them, and now Isabel, June, Kat—and Meryl—must be there for her. Finding themselves. Finding each other. Finding a happy ending. -- Gallery

When I was recently packing books for my trip to the beach, I made sure to include THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB by Mia March. For the most part, I do enjoy women's fiction and I thought this novel sounded like a good beach book -- a touching story that focuses on women and their relationships. Plus, there was the whole Meryl Street film angle. I have to admit that I had high expectations for this novel.

THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB tells the story of Isabel and June (who are sisters) and Kat (their cousin) and what happens after Kat's mother Lolly (Isabel and June's aunt) calls them back to her inn on the coast of Maine. She has a very important announcement to make and none of the women are thrilled to be back together after all of these years.

After Isabel and June's parents and Kat's father died unexpectedly in an automobile accident many years ago, Lolly brought up all three girls to the best of her ability; however none of them managed to ever be close. When Lolly gives them some devastating news, Isabel, June and Kat find that they not only need to come together for Lolly's sake, but also because they need love and support to get through their individual problems.

And, all three women definitely have their fair share of troubles. Isabel has just discovered that her husband is having an affair, June is trying to reconnect with the father of her son, and Kat is wondering whether she should marry her long-time best friend. As each of these woman struggle with important decisions, they learn to depend on each other for love and support.

Unfortunately, THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB didn't resonate with me like I had hoped. (Maybe my expectations were too high!) That's not to say that there was anything inherently wrong with the novel. Rather, I imagine that many female readers will absolutely love it. I just had a very hard time warming up to any of the characters. Maybe it's because I am older than these three woman and definitely at a different place in my life, but I found that I just didn't care as much about them as I should have for a book like this. I think if I could have related to even one of them, I probably would have finished this novel with very different feelings.
Having said that, there were some positive things about this novel. One thing that I really enjoyed was how the author brought these three very different women together through the "Meryl Streep Movie Club." I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm a huge Meryl Streep fan or an expert on her films, but I do think she's an incredible actress. I loved taking a walk down memory lane as these women revisited many of Ms. Streep's classic films including Out of Africa, The Bridges of Madison County, and Mamma Mia!

Additionally, I loved how these three women (along with Lolly and a few other guests) discussed Meryl's movies and how they related to their own lives. (It was kind of like being a voyeur at a book club discussion!) I also thought the author did a very good job of tying together the plots and characters of these films to the actual characters in the novel.

Despite my slight issues with THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB, it would most definitely make for an interesting book club discussion. In fact, She Reads has selected it as their September pick. Of course, you can choose to discuss these women and their motivations; however, there is also a reading guide available which provides twenty (yes, twenty!) additional questions as well as some ideas to enhance your book club meeting. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include friendship, marriage, love, obligation, guilt, self-discovery, sacrifice, parenting, and grief. Furthermore, you can also discuss the various Meryl Streep movies that were mentioned in this novel and how (or if) you identify with them.

If you are looking for a touching, yet entertaining, story about women as they struggle to find themselves, then you should definitely check out THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB. I think readers who are fans of literary fiction will appreciate these three women's journeys to happiness and fulfillment.

Thanks to She Reads for providing a review copy of this novel. THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB is the September selection for their new book club. You can read more about it here.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I could totally see a Meryl Streep film fest being a catalyst to revelations!

bermudaonion said...

I didn't love this one either - for some reason I had trouble keeping the characters straight in my head.

Sara Grambusch said...

I agree. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who thought it was sub-par. Not unpleasant though, just not my cup of tea.