This is what books are for.
Yes, yes, I know, Great Literature and Deep Thoughts and Theme and Sturm und Drang und whatever. But be honest – when you pick up a book, do you always want to be harrowed and tested put through the wringer? There’s a time and a place for that sort of great book, of course, and some folks do always want that experience – more power to ’em. I think I’m too old for that s … stuff. What I’m endlessly looking for in a book is good writing, good characters, a good setting the characters can live in, a good plot the characters can live in. A satisfying, unpredictable, well-crafted ending. Sometimes it feels like that’s getting harder and harder to find.
The description sounded like a light, fun read. And that’s exactly what it is – and in no way take that as any shape or form of negativity, or dare to put the word “just” in front of the adjectives. I haven’t used the alleged Mark Twain quote about the difference between lightning and a lightning bug in a while. It’s the difference between this book and what I was expecting. I wasn’t expecting such sharp, smart, funny writing, for one thing. I honestly can’t remember the last time I literally laughed out loud at a book – it was probably something Bria said. No, it was definitely something Bria said. Oh right: “You that guy who wears the pizza outfit and waves at people on the street?” And the Mimi-isms at the head of each chapter are keepers. (“Always choose kindness. Unless the other person’s a jackass. Then all bets are off.”—MIMI) (Good writing: check.) (One of my new all-time favorite lines, right up there with “I piggybacked from a pizza dough freezer”, is “So, I threw my Spanx on the meatloaf and I lied and said you were my boyfriend.”
I wasn’t expecting characters I’d genuinely care about. Perci is kind of a mess, and while her mess is nothing like mine the fact of being kind of a mess was definitely something I bonded with her over. Her circle of friends and family are marvelous – imperfect and wonderful and awful and heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measures. At one point the plot takes a turn that scared me enough to know that yes, I really did care about these characters – and then I started to suspect something. And it was perfect. Handled differently, that part of the book might have bene something I’d skewer the writer for, but this was – did I say perfect already? Well, it was. “I don’t have all the right answers though, and I never should have made you feel like my way was the best way. But I want you to know that I’m here . I’m not going anywhere. You can ignore me and not answer my calls, but I will still be here when you need me. Always.” I swallowed and waited for a reaction, an understanding, a coupon for free French fries, anything. “I’m done now.” – If I’d had friends like this, my life would be different. (Good characters: check.)
Perci’s home is enviable. I want an apartment in a renovated cookie factory. I want to live in this book. (Which is a pretty clear sign of: Good setting: check.)
And the plot? Check. It’s light, sure – but not so frothy that I was positive it couldn’t take a turn. It’s probably a cliche to say that it had heart, and that’s what kept it from being so fluffy it could blow away on a breeze. It didn’t hurt that my family has had losses in the past few years, and we always look for cardinals too. The ending? Left me with a smile on my face and that feeling of satisfied contentment a really good finale brings. Could I have predicted some of the ending? Sure. But not all of it, and not how it would be achieved.
The tl;dr of it all is: I loved this book. I’ve said before that it’s easier to write a long review (or sometimes to write a review at all) of a book I hated than of one I loved, and I’ve speculated that that’s because a negative review is about the book and why it wasn’t good. A positive review tends to be more autobiographical. Another aspect of it is that it’s hard (for me at least) to explain how a writer produced lightning in a bottle. It’s easy to point out flaws – they’re common. Anyone can write a bad book (except, you know, Guy Kay and Barbara Hambly and folks like that). If it was easy to pinpoint exactly what makes a book wonderful, maybe more people could do it. I wish they would. I hope Sharon M. Peterson does, many many more times.
Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an advance copy for an honest review.
“und whatever” LOL. This doesn’t sound like my kind of book, but it sounds like it would be a nice place to spend some time so I’m going to buy it. Nice to see your reviews again. I love them.
Hi! It really is a lovely book – I hope you like it. And thank you – that means the world to me.