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5.0 out of 5 starsDelightful Book
Reviewed in the United States on March 30, 2019
The main characters of the story are the members of the Bendel family and each chapter focuses on the perspective of a member of the family. The story starts from the perspective of the middle child, Jill, when her mother calls to say she is getting a divorce from her father, but is not clear why. The following chapters are told from the perspective of the oldest and youngest children and each parent. The story started off slow for me, but became more enjoyable as I found out more about family dynamics and how each person was able to change the dynamics of their present and future.
Reviewed in the United States on February 11, 2016
After 42 years of marriage, Ruth Bendel decides to leave her husband. She and her husband have a meeting with their 3 children to announce their decision to separate and when asked why, Ruth comes up with mundane answers such as she hates his channel surfing or he doesn't wash his whiskers down the drain. For the adult children, what follows is a soul-searching look at their own marriages and lives. This book has subtle humor that I found very amusing, often laugh-out-loud funny. The son grows anxious at the thought that his picture perfect marriage may come to a similar end; the middle daughter becomes the go-to person for her siblings woes and begins to dream of a trip to France, alone; and, the youngest daughter decides she wants to settle down with an apartment and child despite her single status. Each chapter is a focus on one or the other of the affected family members. My only complaint is the use of curse words. Can't see why a book of this type would need vulgar language. No point and doesn't add to the story-line. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this author's writing style and would buy another of her books. Great lesson here on independence and self-worth.
Novels which depict women leaving home to find independence from their husbands and families have been particularly prevalent since the 1970s, so much so, that one could be forgiven for feeling that this subject has been done to death. So it has by many, but not Ms Arnold!
Ruth Bendel, fed up with forty-two years of catering to her cardiologist husband and raising children without any recognition, calls a family gathering to announce that she and Richard are separating. Her astonished adult children - Doug, Jill and Melissa - discover that their mother is not only setting up house on her own, but she actually as a job in a convenience/general store and a down-market one at that! Needless to say, this puts the cat among the pigeons well and truly and there this plot could become like all the others, however the author's considerable writing skill takes this novel to another standard.
Well-written and beautifully paced, the story follows the ramifications of their parent's separation on the three siblings as well as Ruth and Richard. Doug, complacent and rich, has his world shaken by a small incident within his own marriage, Jill realises that maybe her mother has a point and Melissa takes steps to secure her future in an unexpected way. Ms Arnold engenders such sympathy for her characters and the four couple's lives are intertwined so realistically, that this reader was more than willing to invest care in the outcomes.
There were also some delightful turns of phrase. For example, when Richard's long-time secretary discovers that Ruth has left him - "Gert swept into his office like General Patton storming Europe." Other imagery made me smile, some laugh aloud.
There is no "chocolate-box" ending, but the novel finishes with positive indications for the character's futures and though sorry when the story ended, I can say my reading experience was thoroughly enjoyable.
This was a slow moving story. At times it seemed as though nothing was really happening, but by the end you realize that there was a lot happening it was just moving at the pace of real life.
The characters were well drawn---they all had their flaws and insecurities which only made them more real and likeable. The end seemed abrupt, with no real resolution to some of the intertwining plot lines but that speaks to the true to life nature of the story. The author did a very good job of moving from each of the main characters point of view. This can be awkward if not done right but each character's voice seemed to come through accurate to their personality so it worked here.
Of all of the characters I found Ruth, the matriarch, to be the least believable. Not really sure why. Maybe she seemed too much a caricature of a Jewish housewife than a character in her own right. Maybe it was the fact that although she was the catalyst for the rest of the characters' little journeys of change she seemed more of a supporting character. Maybe it was just the fact that personally I related more to the younger characters.
Overall it was a great glimpse into a real family and the roles that are universal to all families--the fixer, the perfect one, etc.
This book was inspiring for women who perhaps feel like they have been tied down in their marriage and wonder what it would be like to try being single after their kids have left home. I think it was a little too simplistic for my taste - I don't imagine the transition from married to single would go so smoothly for most families. The main character seemed a little simple and one-dimensional to me. The ending left me a little flat, sure not what I expected. That being said, parts of it were uplifting and the character wound up where she wanted to be in life in the end. If you're looking for romance, this book probably isn't for you. If you like novels about strong women, you will probably enjoy this.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 7, 2012
When you read the synopsis about a woman walking out of her family home, you expect her to have some aim in mind other than living in a crummy flat and working in the local supermarket. I thought there might be more humour or more self revelation, but neither materialised. Found it rather luke warm and wouldn't particularly recommend it.
I've not read any Judith Arnold before but really enjoyed this book. It is a typical chick lit, no big surprises with the plot, but well written and an enjoyable read. I would read more by this author.