Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: All the Lonely People

Summary: WANTED: a whole new family to share holidays with. Please have a good heart and be a thoughtful, polite person. No sociopaths, no pedophiles, no fans of the Kardashians. We're not weirdos, I promise. I love old Steve Martin movies, new Steve Martin banjo tunes, Indian food, and reruns of Bob Ross painting happy little trees. So if you're looking for something other than the typical family dysfunction this Christmas, drop us a line.

After losing her beloved mother to cancer, 37-year-old Jaime Collins must confront the ugly fact that she and her siblings don't actually like one another. At all. Fueled by grief and an epic argument at Thanksgiving dinner, Jaime decides to divorce her siblings and posts an ad on Craigslist for a new family with whom to share Christmas dinner.

What happens next is a heartwarming, funny, and surprising journey to forgiveness and healing. Is blood really thicker than water? What makes a family? And how far do we have to go to find our way back home again?

Dedicated to anyone who has ever wanted to unfriend a relative on Facebook, All the Lonely People is about family: those you make ... and those you make peace with.

Quite a few years ago (when I was still a relatively new blogger), I reviewed a wonderful novel called DRIVING SIDEWAYS by Jess Riley. Some of you might remember Ms. Riley as a a contributor for The Debutante Ball. I always think of her as an extremely insightful and, at the same time, funny writer. So it didn't come as any surprise to me that her debut novel DRIVING SIDEWAYS was a very funny story that also managed to touch my heart.

It's been a couple of years, but Ms. Riley has released a new novel called ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE. I usually don't accept self-published books, but I gladly accepted a copy of this book because I consider myself a fan of the author's. I have to say that I did enjoy ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE and it definitely reminded me of why I like Ms. Riley's smart and witty writing style. However, I'm not sure I liked it quite as much as DRIVING SIDEWAYS.

In ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE, Jaime Collins is still reeling from the death of her mother. To make things worse, she doesn't exactly have the best relationship with her siblings. After a Thanksgiving dinner where tempers exploded, Jaime decides that she wants a new family. So what does she do? She advertises for one on Craig's List. That's right, she figures there must be other lonely people out there who want to spend Christmas dinner with a family.. even if it's a made-up one.

And guess what? Jaime was right! She finds an interesting crew of people (some might say misfits) with whom to spend Christmas, and their friendships start evolving from there. Along the way, Jaime discovers some valuable things about the relationships in her life including the ones with her husband and siblings; and she even learns some important life lessons that help her to be a happier and more content individual.

I liked ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE, but I wouldn't go so far as to say I loved it. I was hoping that it would be an entertaining story because of its unique premise, and I was pretty sure that it would be funny... especially when it came to all of the quirky characters. For the most part, my expectations were met. I appreciated the variety of characters and I liked seeing how Jaime progressed (i.e. matured) throughout the story. I also really thought there were a lot of funny things about this novel and I liked Jaime's snarky, yet smart, outlook on her family, husband, and life in general.

ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE definitely started out strong for me; however, I'm not sure I felt the same way for the entire story. I found the ending of the novel to be pretty predictable, which isn't altogether bad given the way I wanted the story to end; and the many of the characters and the relationships between them were a bit stereotypical. I also found that Jaime's insights began sounding a little bit like a stand-up routine. That's not to say that they weren't spot on and quite funny. They just started to sound more like a character would say on a television show or movie than in a book.

In fact, that brings me to my next point -- ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE would make a really cute movie (or perhaps even a television show.) Most of the book was really funny, but there were also a few serious issues covered like grief, infertility, and dysfunctional families that made it a touching too. In addition, the characters were almost larger-than-life and extremely entertaining with all of the quirks and foibles. I have no doubt that they would translate well to the screen!

Overall, I liked ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE and it was definitely good for a few laughs. Recommended to fans of women's fiction and books about dysfunctional families.

Thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this novel.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I got a good chuckle out of that premise! Ha! There have been times when I've thought about putting out an ad, as there are a number of holidays when it is just us down here! It is a little disappointing that it didn't quite deliver.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

The premise sounds great! Too bad it didn't pan out better!

bermudaonion said...

This does sound quirky - I bet it would be fun to read over the holidays.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

Besides the dysfunctional bit, it sounds like a light enough read. Probably good after reading a drama.

Carol said...

Sounds like one I might enjoy, even if it's not perfect. Is it awful that sometimes I love the idea of spending holidays with people other than family?