Life After Coffee by Virginia Franken
Women’s Fiction > Humor > Comedic Women’s Fiction
The premise is that Amy has a five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, but Amy has spent most of the five years since she had her first kid traveling the world sourcing the finest coffee beans while their father stays at home as the primary caregiver. He’s a screenplay writer, but he’s infuriated the Hollywood community because he won’t make any changes to his work, so he’s never actually brought in income. When Amy loses her job (right at the beginning of the book—this isn’t a spoiler), her husband Peter decides now is his time to really finish the latest screenplay he has been working on, and he leaves Amy to figure out how to raise the children on her own while he hangs out at a coffee shop to write.
Amy attempts to deal with her kids: angry Billy—he’s furious that she’s left them so much—and clingy Violet. She deals with mothers who think she’s a horrible mom because what mother would dare leave her children behind while she gallivants through places without plumbing or roads?
What’s great about this book is that it never pounds you on the head with how you should think about full-time mothers or mothers who work outside the home. You feel Amy’s frustration at her husband Peter and her fear about what they are going to do for money—her field is small and the jobs are few because of the blight ravaging coffee beans worldwide. It doesn’t glorify motherhood or married life.
Amy is a character that is admirable in so many ways. She doesn’t judge other women (although she makes comical observations that reflect just as much on who she isn’t as who they are). The fact that she wears unfashionable clothes and doesn’t wear make-up because she doesn’t need it when she’s traveling and doesn’t have time for it when she’s home only makes me like her more.
Even when there is sexual tension between Amy and her ex, who became a Hollywood success story with the power to launch Peter’s screenplay career, it’s not overdone—the reader is left to her own imagination.
I can’t wait to read more books by Virginia Franken. Thanks to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.
Summer Island by Kristin Hannah
I enjoyed listening to this story, which is told from the alternating points of view of successful radio host Nora, a woman who preaches to the nation about the importance of family, among other things, and (ironically enough) her estranged daughter, the angry aspiring comedian, Ruby.
When pornographic pictures from Nora’s past emerge, proving that she had an affair while married, her image of being a family values icon are shattered, and her career is in tatters.
Ruby’s career has never gotten started, but the downfall of her mother leads to opportunities for her. Ruby has been angry with her mother since she abandoned Ruby and her sister Caroline when they were young.
Nora wants to hide out from the media and the world on their house on Summer Island, but a car accident means that she needs help. Ruby comes to help her mother—and gather material for the tell-all article she’s been given big bucks to write.
While the ending is not some big twist, there is romance and nostalgia that make this an enjoyable read. More important, this book is about the complex bonds of family, specifically mother/daughter relationships.