This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Escape
Released on March 1, 2014
Zany, provoking, heartwarming, and at times, heartbreaking all wrapped up in one woman’s story that takes place over several years. I read the blurb and still I didn’t quite get just want the balance would be in this one so it took me by surprise.
This quote from the Amazon.com blurb sums it up I think.
Unfortunately, the part I didn’t pay attention about was the part that would have made me normally pass up this book as not really being my thing. I freely admit this is on me and I take responsibility for the error. The thing is, I’m not one to blend strong persuasive arguments, plateforming, soapboxing or strong statements of ideology with my pleasure/escape reads and this one was chalk full of the politics. I don’t have to agree with everything I read for me to like an author or their writing. In fact, I’m good with differences of opinion and tend to take the attitude of to each their own, but I don’t like it taking over a story when I read fictional stuff which is why I said that I wouldn’t normally have picked this one up if I had paid better attention. The political stances taken on various things were only fifty-fifty favorable for me. I tend to be more moderate and tolerant than the heroine and her family on my stance so I wasn’t able to relax back while reading the steady stream of thought-provoking issues. Again, I didn’t hold this against the author or the book.
Whew, okay, now that I got that out of the way… As far as my impressions other than the political ideology, there were other things that I both enjoyed and things that I found not so enjoyable.
The story itself is the story of a woman who grows up in a home where she was nurtured in an environment that encouraged fighting injustice and perceived injustices. She comes from a proud line of female activists starting with grandma on down on her mom’s side and she inherits a brilliant mathematical mind from her calm and quiet father who supports all his wife and daughter involve themselves in. Lola came of age with the dream of making an impact on the world, making a difference, leaving the world a better place. Only, she is unsure how to go about this so she jumps into causes and situations without much forethought. This of course gets her into trouble pretty often and has her dwelling on matters such as appropriate undergarments for climbing high security fences, but yet workable for a later strip search if she is caught.
In between her flitting from cause to cause, she encounters an Australian man who embodies the exact opposite of everything she holds dear. She harangues him about the intolerance, consumerism and the fat cat complacency with comfort of him and those like him only to be confronted by Wayne calmly telling her ‘then teach me’. Wayne accepts all she spits and yells at him, but he’s not a doormat. Wayne is a rare man who has no need to react or attack because he is comfortable in his own skin unlike Lola. He thinks through what upsets her and makes changes in his own life to reflect that her words had impact. Wayne has things he can teach Lola too. He gives her a new perspective when he offers that its pretty easy to judge those who choose a career, a home, a family and a white picket fence when you’ve never known the lack. Wayne unnerves her and not just because he gets under her skin and they share a mutual attraction. Lola is terrified of what he stirs in her and that if she doesn’t break away then she’ll be trapped in the very thing she doesn’t want for herself. They are too different to be compatible she declares to everyone and to herself. Wayne doesn’t think different means incompatible, but Lola walks away anyway.
Breaking up with Wayne is not easy, but she does it and tries to move forward even though friends, siblings and parents all loved the guy and take the break up just as hard. They question her decision, but she is the queen of denial and deflection. And her kooky family and friends make that easy with all they have going on in their lives.
Over the years, she learns some tough lessons, her dreams take a bruising and she thinks she can replace the love of her life even if every future encounter lets her know that only with Wayne does she truly come alive. Unfortunately, every encounter also shows her that she still has yet to find her place and achieve her dream. Lola doesn’t give up. Regular life happens bringing tough times and a few happy moments. But they bring her to a place where she discovers that finding what makes her feel worth and success sometimes take time and that the good things in life have been there all along.
The plot on this one is very loose and takes real concentration to follow. It’s all told from Lola’s perspective and it reads just like her mind. It’s all over the place, dashing back and forth between the present, the distant past, and then the not-so distant past. Her tone is wry with humor, sometimes fierce with conviction, often naive and sometimes low with depression. She is not a reliable narrator in ways, but it’s not difficult to get to know the other people in her life or what they are thinking. Truthfully, I found a few of the other characters to be the most appealing. Her best friends, her brother, and her aunt along with Wayne really made a scene sparkle. The author’s full-bodied characters with their quirks, foibles and loveable qualities was so well-done. Scenes with Lola’s family cracked me up. Her mom and sister are so over the top and over blessed with personality and charisma.
The pace of the story though the time hopped about was good. Lola’s personal growth and even the romance developed at very reasonable rates like weeks, months and years instead of hours and days. Very refreshing bit of believability that many stories with romantic elements lack.
I also enjoyed that the characters were true to the backdrop and social climate they were set in. I was impressed by the colorful and varying scenes like the jail, the friends’ apartment, the protestors’ fishing boat, the rugby field, the cafes and in the trip to Australia.
Lola is strong-willed, sweet, smart and to a certain extent self-absorbed. I both liked her and disliked her. She had brains, but she wasn’t always smart or wise. She came off as a real jerk for me in her encounters with Wayne. I honestly had no idea what he saw in her or why he bothered. And the way she used Clark to get her mind and heart off Wayne made her lose respect points with me. The fact that she was honest about this with Clark- after he pointed it out that he knew and didn’t mind- still didn’t make it right. She tended to go off half-cocked and took little responsibility for her actions. In fact, she wronged Wayne so many times and there was only one apology in the whole book. He did some really neat things for her and demonstrated in so many ways that he put her needs and comfort first and he barely got grudging thank yous if he got them at all. Heck most of the time she ran from him, lied to him, and put him down. Still asking, why did he bother? Through her experiences at demonstrating and getting in trouble that invariably affected other people, she learned that actions and words have consequence, but it wasn’t until nearly the end that Lola actually showed true remorse and understood the impact of her decisions. So with that, some of my frustration with her lack of growth was mollified.
In the end, I’m not sorry to have tried a new to me author or read this book. It challenged my thinking and also gave me some laughs too. I enjoyed it. I would recommend this to those who enjoy Women’s fiction with romantic elements or Contemporary Romances with strong character issues and ideology taking the forefront.
My thanks to NetGalley and Escape Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.