The Do-Over – Sharon M. Peterson

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.

Found one!

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.

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2 Responses to The Do-Over – Sharon M. Peterson

  1. “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.

  2. stewartry says:

    Hi! It really is a lovely book – I hope you like it. And thank you – that means the world to me.

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