When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald
Published by It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins
Yes, THAT Molly Ringwald. Don’t make the mistake I nearly did, though, and discount the book on the basis of her celebrity. I will fully admit that I initially dismissed When It Happens to You. IT was serious book snobbery, I assumed that someone primarily famous for her acting didn’t have much in the way of writing chops. Luckily Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters, spent some time raving about When It Happens to You on Facebook and Twitter. As I trust her reading recommendations, I decided to go ahead and pick it up and give it a shot. I knew within pages that this was the real deal.
When It Happens to You is a novel in stories revolving around a couple in the midst of a marital crisis. Greta and Phillip Parris have been growing increasingly more distant in their furious attempts to have a second child. Not only is their marriage faltering, but their daughter Charlotte is acting strangely, particularly around her pretty young violin teacher, Theresa. Before long, the reality of infidelity tears their family apart.
Instead of walking through the guilt and recriminations with the Parris family, Ringwald takes the reader through Greta and Phillip’s story by telling the stories of those around them. Occasionally one of them is the main character in a give story, but more often it is an acquaintance, a lover (although never the lover who sparked this crisis), or a neighbor. The most affecting story is that of Charlotte’s best friend and his mother Marina, titled My Olivia. Ringwald manages to completely subsume the reader in Marina’s life and psyche in just 30-odd pages. In fact, all of Ringwald’s characterization is stellar, which helps the reader connect in some way with each and every character in the book.
When It Happens to You is a wonderful book, almost achingly good at points. Ringwald’s prose, plot, and characterization all work together create one of the best collection of linked stories I have read.
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