Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back In The Game by Holly Chamberlin

Photo taken from Goodreads

Book Info

Title:  Back In The Game
Author:  Holly Chamberlin
Publisher:  Kensington
Language: English
Format:  Paperback
Pages:  352 pages
ISBN-10:  0758216521
ISBN-13:  978-0758216526
Source:  Purchased, Booksale


From Amazon

"Nobody said life was fair. That love was forever. Or that getting back in the game would be easy. Then again, nobody said they had to play by the rules, either...Jess Marlowe doesn't know why she suddenly stopped loving her husband, Matt. According to her mum, it's because of Jess' inability to stick with anything, from ballet in the third grade to Bart, the "nice young man" she dated in college. Trust her mom to forget that Jess was bullied at ballet and that Bart could have earned a degree in crazy. So now Jess' marriage is over, but it feels like life is just beginning, if she can navigate this terrifying, thrilling, newly single existence that includes dates with S&M-addicted colleagues, a divorce "support" group that offers anything but, and a whole new way of thinking about love, lust, and everything in between. And the greatest surprise of all comes in discovering what she really wants from a future that's wide open - and utterly unpredictable..."


On some levels, this could double as a novel and a self-help book. It was like a long essay about putting your life back on track after divorce, but written very creatively to read like a story as well.
As I have never been divorced nor married before, those areas are really very  foreign to me.  Of course I witness how my parents' marriage went, as well as those of my other relatives but I really don't have a firsthand account of what happens between man and wife.  Coming from a predominantly Christian country where divorce is illegal and frowned upon, I admit that the mention of it at times make me uncomfortable but not because my mind is closed to that idea, but because I think that it's a very sensitive topic to talk about.  Which is not to say that marital breakups do not occur - I myself have an aunt and uncle who separated 10 years after their marriage because the husband had an affair.  But I digress...

I liked the concept of this book.  I thought it was supposed to be just about Jess and picking up the pieces of her life after her divorce - it turns out it's about four divorced friends:  Jess and her supposed 'inability to stick with anything' according to her mother; Nell who found out her husband of 20 years had been having an affair - with a man; Laura who wanted to find a man who's willing to give her a baby; and Grace who left her artist husband after he had an affair but continued to be at his beck and call financially and emotionally.  I was excited to read about the lives of these four women and how they would deal.  I also felt that this would be sort of a 'pro-women' novel.

Unfortunately for me, things did not play out as I thought they would.  I barely read much about Jess considering that she's the one featured on the book's blurb you'd think that she would be the main focus.  Her story seemed uninspired and incomplete, as if the author suddenly ran out of ideas for executing a good plot for Jess.  She did learn a lot throughout the book and was able to get past her confusion and guilt after her divorce but it would have been better if her 'inability to stick with anything' had been explored more and her relationship with her mother given a better resolution.  Her mother sounded too much like a villain, too unsupportive and dismissive of her daughter's efforts to have a better perspective of her life.  I cannot imagine having a mother like this but what do I know?  Maybe there indeed exists a woman like that.  Reading the whole book, I think the one who had it best was Grace, her story was very well-played out and hers was actually the one that had the most action, the most significant changes.  Grace could have a novel of her own, come to that.  Nell sounded too one-dimensional and her side of the book fell a bit too flat and unrealistic.  Laura's on the other hand, sounded the most outrageous although it was all balanced in the end.  I somehow doubt the authenticity of her character but who am I to say such things?  Laura was very impractical, impulsive, judgmental and self-righteous to the point of forcing the reader to question how the other women could stand being her friend.  Although her character seemed to be the source for comic relief and the one who says things other characters won't be caught dead saying, it just seems unrealistic.  However, the treatment of her character was very effective - not just once did I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at the things she said and did.  It was like Laura's character was created so that we could have a literary 'punching bag' while reading this book.

When I previously mentioned this book sounding like a long essay, I was not kidding.  The book was mostly dialogue about divorce, forgiving yourself, forgiving your partner, opening up to new possibilities, etc.  I sometimes wondered if this book was misplaced at the bookstore - instead of being placed at Self-Help it was mistakenly piled up at Fiction.  I don't mind reading about those things this book talked about, but I think it would have been better if those lessons that the author wanted the readers to learn were not just presented through character conversations but were used to play up the story.  Instead of preaching, practice; instead of speaking, storytelling.  

I really wanted to like this book and I thought this was going to be one of those that I could share with my mother - we love sharing books and talking about it afterward - but I don't think this is ever going to make it to my mother's reading list.


If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced by any party in any way.


1 comment:

  1. You know when sometimes you're so glad someone else read 'that' book so you don't have to ... lol. One I'll give a wide berth I think. Thanks for an interesting and informative review Argh.


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