People might say “Never judge a book by its cover”, but we all do it- it’s why they make illustrated covers. This book’s airy blue cover with a jar of fireflies and a pair of gals strolling the beach certainly belied its weighty theme. When I picked this book up for a book club I kind of invited myself to, I was really expecting a beach read. Boy, was I wrong. Beach reading always ends with a happily-ever-after.This book weaves two separate stories into one: the first, a story of a young girl (Tully) living with her grandparents with intermittent stints with her drug-addicted mother; the second (Kate), a bookish and slightly boring girl in a loving home. They have little in common but a fierce love for one another and their many hours together. As time marches on, their differences grow with them. Tully chooses a life in the spotlight at the expense of love; Kate drops out of the rest of her life to live for love. This books moves from a nostalgic but not rose-colored revisit of the 70s into a sparkly and glamorously reckless depiction of the 80s, a grown-up take on the 90s, and a modern-day middle-aged meta. The author apparently had a good time revisiting trends and products from decades gone by (TaB, anyone?), which might be fun for readers that remember the same things.
The bulk of the book explores the dichotomy between stay-at-home-mothers and career women, resulting in something of a clichéd caricature. Being a working mother myself, I found it a little hard to relate to either of the star heroines- but I had a lot of time to invest this weekend, and a vested interest in not having read the book everyone else at the book club I forced myself on will be talking about, so I trucked through it. Despite the thematic disconnect I had from the story, because it covers so much ground (and so many decades) at least some of the experiences and emotions contained in it are bound to reach any woman. The girls’ friendship is realistically punctuated with fall-outs and heart-warming reconciliations. Kristin Hannah’s writing is engaging and reader-friendly. By the end of the book, you might not have fallen in love with her characters, but you’ll probably feel like you could easily be friends with the author.
Spoiler alert: from about page 400 on, you might want to read in a place where no one will judge you, because whether you consider the characters relatable or not they will tug at your heartstrings toward the end of the book. Keep a box of Kleenex handy. The emotional upheaval is what saves this book from falling into the beach-read category. As a side note- the constant cocktails, the pot-smoking, the swearing, and the promiscuity may turn off moral majority readers.
If you’re a tech-savvy, tree-saving kind of girl, you might consider downloading the e-book; or, you can just have my copy. This book is a quick, satisfying one-read wonder, so if you buy a paper copy, plan to pass it along instead of letting it collect dust on your shelf. Seriously, if you would like to have my copy, leave me a comment.