The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers Published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Only five years ago, Tia was desperately in love with a man she was sure loved her back. When Nathan found out about her pregnancy, however, he left her, imploring her to get rid of the baby. Unable to bear aborting Nathan’s child, but also unable to imagine herself as a competent mother, Tia settled on adoption. Now, when the latest set of pictures come in from her child’s adoptive parents, Tia cannot help by think of Nathan, and the fact that he knows nothing about their daughter. On a whim, she decides to copy the pictures and send them to Nathan, where they intercepted by his wife, Juliette.
Juliette had, somewhat, forgiven Nathan when he confessed his affair, but learning that he has a daughter is more than she can handle. Desperate to see this little girl who is part Nathan, Juliette searches her out, and finds her adoptive mother, Caroline. Caroline is just as – or perhaps even more – damaged as Tia and Juliette; she is a deeply introverted person who glories in her research-based career. Interacting with a young child is simply not natural for Caroline, and although she loves her family, she worries that she is constantly failing as a wife and mother.
By opening with Tia announcing her pregnancy and Nathan immediately leaving her, Meyers makes her story immediately engaging, while also providing the perfect set up for the novel as a whole. Everything that happens in The Comfort of Lies stems from this very moment, and Tia’s subsequent decisions to have her baby and give her up for adoption. I loved the way Meyers brings all three women together through one act of infidelity and one little girl. She does not pretend that things will be easy between these women, but writes interactions tinged both with real emotions and with grace.
The Comfort of Lies is a beautiful book about the things that tear us apart and how they can bring us back together. Recommended.
The Trial of Fallen Angels by James Kimmel, Jr. Published by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, an imprint of Penguin
It is a fairly typical day for lawyer Brek Cuttler: play with the baby, go to work at her law firm, pick up the baby, stop at the store on the way home. The only problem is, she has no idea what happened after all of that. Brek’s next moment of consciousness involves sitting in an otherworldly train station, dressed in her favorite suit and covered in blood. Brek is is now in the afterlife, and she has been chosen to continue her earthly quest for justice by joining the team that presents souls for the Final Judgement.
My oh my does The Trial of Fallen Angels ever have some intense moments! There are a couple of scenes involving Brek’s little daughter that made me have to put the book down and walk away overnight, because they were just too much for me to handle. One of the times I very nearly put the book in the freezer. Moms of young children, this book may just about kill you, be forewarned.
At the same time that The Trial of Fallen Angels attempts to give you heart attacks, it also has some really beautiful parts. I simply adored the theme of connectedness that runs through the stories and the lives that Brek encounters as she learns how to present souls. The threads begin to weave together, illuminating not only the reader but Brek herself as to the reality of her past and that of her family.
The Trial of Fallen Angels is unlike anything I’ve ever read and, although it gets slightly preachy towards the end, it is a moving book with great emotional impact.
Henny on the Couch by Rebecca Land Soodak Published by 5 Spot, an imprint of Hachette
From the publisher:
Kara Caine Lawson has worked hard to become the woman she is-wife, mother and successful shop owner. Having survived a turbulent childhood, Kara understands that life could’ve just as easily gone another way . . . and even if she isn’t gliding through the trials of lost library books, entitled customers and routine date nights, at least she’s not sipping a Dewar’s all day like her mother did.
But then Kara unexpectedly encounters paintings by her now-famous college boyfriend just as she’s beginning to suspect that her daughter Henny’s difficulties may be the sign of something serious, and all of her past decisions are thrown into dramatic relief.
As a look at modern motherhood, and the myriad of directions women find themselves pulled in, Henny on the Couch worked beautifully. Kara is completely subsumed by her family’s needs and the business she fell into that she has lost sight of who she actually is. This desire to reclaim herself comes in the guise of fantasies about the love affair that defined her young, pre-marriage life. At the same time, Soodak tries to do a few too many things in Henny on the Couch, the thread of Kara’s mother’s alcoholism in particular adds little to the story, while serving to make the whole thing slightly disconnected. It is a good book as it is, but some simplification of plot lines and strengthening those that remained would make it a better one.
Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Lucy Blooms’s life is falling apart, but at least it isn’t cluttered. She recently lost her job, and her teenage son’s drug addiction cost her both her boyfriend and the house she had to sell to fund his rehab, and now her son won’t even speak with her. To make things worse, Lucy is now bunking with her best friend’s preschooler. Really, the only bright spot in her life comes from her new potential job. As the author of a not-so-bestselling book on organizing called Things are Not People, the one thing she feels that she might be qualified to do is organize. Unfortunately, her new client isn’t so much a packrat as a hoarder, and a very difficult one at that.
Objects of My Affection is a very engaging book that is easy to keep reading. Although Lucy can be frustrating at times, she is generally a character who is very easy to relate to, and the story that Smolinski has crafted keeps the pages turning.
For more information, see my piece on Objects of My Affection for SheKnows.com.
Double Time: How I Survived – and Mostly Thrived – Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins by Jane Roper Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan
After trying in vain to have a baby and enduring fertility treatments, Jane Roper finally learned that she was pregnant. With twins. Following the initial moment of panic, Roper – a writer and reader – searched for a book that was, at the time, nonexistent: a memoir of the first years with multiples. Roper’s own first few years with her twin daughters were filled with many exceptionally joyful times, but also with renewed depression and professional hardships.
Double Time is a funny and insightful look into life raising twins. Much of what Roper discusses will be relevant to all parents, life with young children viewed through Roper’s wry sense of humor:
After extracting what cat food I could from Elsa’s mouth – not that it mattered, really, but the idea of one’s child eating horsemeat and fish eyeballs and whatever else is in dry cat food isn’t terribly pleasant, especially when, as Alastair pointed out, we hadn’t formally introduced those foods yet – I grabbed the dishes and went into the kitchen to find a towel to mop up the water. –p. 109
Of course, Roper also brings in the challenges that are unique to parenting twins, or children very close in age in general, such as the inability to be in two places at once as twin babies grow into toddlers, and both decide to engage in risky or disgusting behavior at the same time.
As the soon-to-be mother of twins, I found Double Time to be an honest and open look at twin parenthood. It is reassuring, even when Roper discusses the challenges, because she explains how she and her husband, Alastair, were able to meet those challenges without loss of life or limb. Her approach is descriptive, rather than prescriptive, which is also reassuring as she shows a picture of a family making it and being happy, rather than an unattainable picture of familial perfection. Towards the end of the book, she says something that sums up perfectly why Double Time is so reassuring, when responding to the eternal ‘how do you do it?’ question:
Of course the answer to all of these questions – in any context – is that raising twins is not a matter of being some kind of superhuman wonder parent. We simply don’t have a choice. We just do it…. Not always well, and certainly not always with the amount of patience and perspective or consistency we’d like. But we do it. –p. 259
I would absolutely and unequivocally recommend Double Time to new parents of twins, but I think many parents – perhaps mothers in particular – will resonate with Roper’s experiences. Highly recommended.