Anna Fields evokes an earthy, perceptive woman you'd enjoy having across the backyard fence. Fields has a knack for creating characters with vocal mannerisms and inflections that are authentic. This is especially true in Fields's performance of Julie, Mitchard's protagonist, an advice columnist for a Wisconsin paper who unexpectedly finds that no one is more in need of help than she. Her husband abruptly leaves her and their three children to go find himself (and a younger, more malleable mate) in a commune. Soon after, Julie learns she has multiple sclerosis. The blows keep coming, but even in Julie's many unheroic moments, Fields's humor and good nature maintain a sympathy she always merits.
Giving advice is what Julieanne does for a living; every Sunday she doles it out in a column in her local Wisconsin paper. But when it comes to her personal life, Julie herself seems to have missed some clues. Having worked creatively to keep her 20-year marriage to Leo fresh and exciting and to be a good mother, she is completely caught off guard when he tells her he needs to go on a "sabbatical" from their life together, leaving Julie and their three children behind. But it soon becomes clear that his leave of absence is meant to be permanent. Things take a turn for the worse when Julie is diagnosed with a serious illness and the children undertake a dangerous journey to find Leo...before it's too late. As the known world sinks precariously from view, the clan must navigate their way through the shoals of love, guilt, and betrayal. Together, with the help of Leo's parents and Julie's best friend, they work their way back to solid ground and a new definition of family.
No one illuminates modern love, marriage, and parenting better than Jacquelyn Mitchard. Written with her trademark poignancy, humor, and insight, The Breakdown Lane is her most moving, eloquent, and life-affirming work yet.
©2005 Jacquelyn Mitchard; (P)2005 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
"Rousing melodrama, fluid, often funny, dialogue, and the convincing portrayal of children involved in the collapse of a marriage add up to another page-turner from Mitchard." (Publishers Weekly)
"An astute observer of family dynamics, Mitchard renders her characters flawlessly, endowing them with a humanity that is both accessibly grounded and astonishingly deep." (Booklist)
I was dissappointed in this book. It started out "fair" and continued at that level. I found the husband-bashing to be a little much, or was it that the wife could actually be that dumb? The children characters were not any more realistic.
The narration was also so-so. I found her male voices disturbing (typical of many female narrators).
There could have been so much more to this story, but it was a come-again hippie, mid-life crisis, coming-of-age tale that has been told too many times.
I enjoyed this book a great deal. I found the narrator a little jarring at first, but soon became accustomed to her voice. She does a good job of differentiating the characters--her adolescent girl voice is excellent.
I enjoyed listening to this book. It took a while to get used to the narrator's voice when she does the husband and son's voices. My mom also listened to it and really liked it.
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