Friday, November 16, 2012
Molly Ringwald mines the complexities of modern relationships in this gripping and nuanced collection of interlinked stories. Writing with a deep compassion for human imperfection, Ringwald follows a Los Angeles family and their friends and neighbors while they negotiate the hazardous terrain of everyday life—revealing the deceptions, heartbreak, and vulnerability familiar to us all.
In "The Harvest Moon," a stay-at-home mom grapples with age, infertility, and an increasingly distant husband. In "Ursa Minor," a former children's television star tries to rebuild his life after being hospitalized for "exhaustion." An elderly woman mourns the loss of her husband and her estranged relationship with her daughter in "The Little One." In "My Olivia," a single mother finds untapped reserves of strength to protect her flamboyant six-year-old son who wishes only to wear dresses and be addressed as Olivia. And in the devastating title story, a betrayed wife chronicles her pain and alienation, leading to an eviscerating denouement.
As the lives of these characters converge and diverge in unexpected ways, Ringwald reveals a startling eye for the universality of loss, love, and the search for connection. An unflinching yet poignant examination of the intricacies of the human heart, When It Happens to You is an auspicious literary debut. -- !t Books
I was extremely excited when my book club decided to read WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU by Molly Ringwald for November. Like many women in their 40s, I grew up watching Molly Ringwald star in so many terrific movies like SIXTEEN CANDLES, BREAKFAST CLUB, and PRETTY IN PINK; and when I learned that she was now trying her hand at writing fiction, I admit my interest was piqued.
After reading (and partially listening to) WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU, my initial reaction was that I was very impressed with Ms. Ringwald's writing. I really enjoyed WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU, and I think the main reason was the the stories were about real topics that touch everyone's lives. This novel delved into marriage, love, loss, adultery, infertility, parenting issues, second chances, and forgiveness. I especially appreciated how all of these short stories were intertwined, and I liked getting glimpses into the characters lives. It also didn't hurt that I really like Ms. Ringwald's way with words. I found many of her passages to be gorgeous as well as deeply affecting.
WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU is as the title states "a novel in stories." The book begins with a story about Greta, a stay-at-home mom of six year old Charlotte, who is trying to come to terms with the various problems in her life. She is desperate to have another child and instead is battling infertility. In addition, she senses that her obsession with having another baby might be causing her husband Phillip to pull away from her. Greta and her feelings were all very real to me, and I liked how well Ms. Ringwald brought her story to life.
Greta, Phillip, and Charlotte do appear again in other stories in WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU, and for the most part, they are the common thread in all of the stories; however, there are also stories about their family, friends, and neighbors. There really weren't any stories that I didn't like at all, but naturally there were some that stood out to me more than others. "The Harvest Moon," which is the first story about Greta and her infertility was one of them. As was the last story about Greta and Phillip titled "The Places You Don't Walk Away From."
But my all-time favorite was called "My Olivia" This short story featured a single mother and her son Oliver (who was a classmate of Charlotte's) who at six years old was determined that he was a girl. He wanted to wear dresses and have long hair, and he insisted that he be called Olivia. This story about a mother's love for her child and her desire to do right by him broke my heart. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and extremely powerful.
I always think that I am not one who enjoys short story collections; however, I'm beginning to think that's not the case. I actually really enjoy novels that are told in linked short stories like WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU and OLIVE KITTERIDGE, and I love when characters or scenes overlap. In the case of WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU, I liked when the author gave the reader a scene told through the eyes of the different characters involved. It's always interesting for me to see how different people interpret the same situation... both in books and real life for that matter.
I was fortunate enough to both listen to and physically read WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU. The audio book is narrated by Ms. Ringwald, and I think that made it extra-special to me. I love when an author is able to read his or her own words because I think their personal passion comes through. Ms. Ringwald did an outstanding job with capturing the right tone for this book, and I wouldn't hesitate to listen to another book narrated by her. (And I guess there are a few more out there!)
I thought WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU was an outstanding choice for a book club discussion. Most of our members at least enjoyed it, but not all of them were as impressed as I was. One member wanted more character development, and another found that she didn't really care about any of the characters. We were a little scattered last night, so we didn't discuss the book for very long; however, some of the themes you might want to explore with your group include love, loss, grief, parenting, betrayal, forgiveness, romantic relationships, infidelity, infertility, communication, and many more.
WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU was a terrific read for me, and I recommend it to fans of Molly Ringwald's as well as fans of short stories.
Giveaway alert: I have a copy of WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU to share with one lucky Booking Mama reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before Thursday, November 29th at 11:59 p.m. ET. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!