Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel
Kate has been in a slump since her boyfriend unceremoniously dumped her at the airport in Paris. Instead a new life in a new country, she returns to New York and becomes one with her couch and her sweatpants for months.
With the encouragement of her sister, Angela, Kate manages to get a job in the admissions office of a private elementary school.
This story is told in part from her friend Chloe’s point of view, and in part through letters and emails from parents who are going out of their minds trying to get their kid placed in a prestigious school. It’s also told in part in Kate’s write-ups after meeting the potential students and their parents. The innovative story telling is part of what makes this such a fun book. The dialogue is hilarious and the characters are well-drawn, even the minor characters are given depth and believability.
Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White
This is a beautifully written story of Marianne, who has battled bipolar disorder for thirty years. When she’s medicated, she has been able to run a successful recording studio and run a charity for teens in trouble called Girls in Motion. It was through that charity that she came to unofficially adopt Jade when she was 16 (Jade is now almost thirty at the start of the novel). Marianne isn’t the cause of a car accident that causes a woman to give birth to a seven-month-along still born, but she takes responsibility anyway—plus it brings back horrible memories of another accident and lost pregnancy. The recent accident causes Marianne to have another break, go off her meds, and return to England where she grew up to see Gabriel, who is now a priest. He was her first love and the brother of her first lover, who died in a car accident when Marianne was sixteen years old. In addition to leaving Jade behind in North Carolina, she also leaves behind a doting husband, Darius. Both of them help with the studio.
I’ve had friends who battle bipolar disorder and they are medicated, but when their meds are adjusted, watch out. However, with my friends, I can only know what they tell me, not experience it firsthand. The portions of this book that are written from Marianne’s point of view when she is having hallucinations are incredibly insightful. It is not a disease I envy.
This is fast-paced for a literary women’s fiction novel, possibly because when you’re dealing with a person who battles manic episodes, the person is unpredictable, and thus this book is, too—in a great way.
There were definitely times when the prose made me teary, which I love.
All the Good Parts by Loretta Nyhan
When Leona has a weird blip in her cycle, her gynecologist points out that at 39, Leona has to think about whether to she wants a baby because her eggs aren’t going to be in working order forever.
Leona has a busy life going to nursing school online, working as a home aide, and helping her sister and brother-in-law raise their four children. In exchange for the help she does around the house, she gets free room and board and helps out financially where she can.
At first I thought this was going to be a book about a woman going on a series of dates to find a man quick. Fortunately, that was not the case. Instead, she looks at all of the options available to a cash-strapped woman who hasn’t finished school.
My main issue with the book is that somehow she gets to the age of 39 with really nothing to show for it. We know she had a great guy several years ago and wasn’t ready to commit yet, and we know she took two years to care for her ailing father, but besides that, there is no mention of other relationships or jobs. If you want to be a mother, that’s not something you just happen to remember at the age of 39 because you get a weird period.
Leona was a little too passive to me—that was the point, that she had to be more assertive–but she was just a little too nice for my taste.
Still, this is a well written book with moments of humor.