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Actually, “light weekend reading” may be incorrect, because even though I’d definitely classify HEART OF THE MATTER as chick-lit, the subject of infidelity is never light or easy.

Emily Giffin’s books are as recognizable by their pastel hues as they are for covering topics you’d expect in chick-lit (I don’t mean this to be derogatory; is “women’s fiction” better?): weddings, babies, love, friendship, and now infidelity.  After having read some deeper books, I was in the mood over the wintery weekend for an easy read and saw the purple spine on my bookshelf.  I was ready to be lost in a world of chattering women and married suburbia… Instead, it was a love triangle with no easy way out.

Tessa is married to Dr. Nick Russo, a pediatric plastic surgeon dedicated to his work.  Married for seven years with two young children, they have a seemingly happy life in a wealthy suburb of Boston.  The short version is Nick gets overly attached to a patient and his single mom.  Seemingly (inappropriately; unconvincingly) unsatisfied with his home life, he starts along the slippery slope of lying about working late; Halloween parties, etc.  I won’t ruin the ending, but this was one of those books in which I didn’t really identify with any of the characters and found none of their actions to be totally reasonable/understandable.

“Moral” of my review: books focused on infidelity aren’t my thing. I don’t mind if it’s a plot point, but when infidelity is its own character I’m lost.  I just like to think people are better than that – although my dad always says I’m too trusting.  The silver lining is that it motivated me to update my blog!  And y’all, this is a tenuous connection to my Southern list since the gorgeous Emily Giffin hails from Atlanta?!

Other books on infidelity that I haven’t loved include many of the Jennifer Weiner’s (I enjoyed the movie IN HER SHOES but was horrified that the sister slept with the others’ bf!), ADMISSION by Jean Hanff Korelitz (though I loved her WHITE ROSE novel), the one about the teacher and student with a green apple on the hardcover jacket (don’t remember the name of this one – anyone?)…

But I’m not a total prude: I have enjoyed many books for which infidelity takes place like Jonathan Tropper’s THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (in fact, my literary-lovin’ pup just chewed this one up recently), Anita Shreve’s THE PILOT’S WIFE (though it was traumatizing and I will still not date a pilot… and have been disappointed by every Shreve novel since), Sue Miller’s THE SENATOR’S WIFE (infidelity was much less of a focus in this one) and I’m sure there are more, because for better or worse this seems to be a hot topic in our society.

This was a pretty boring review, sorry crew!  I’m super excited for my Monday post on MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND – please come back then.

Sundays are notoriously unproductive (is this true across the board or just for my roomies and I?), typically spent lolling around in front of the Lifetime Movie Channel or, weather permitting, relaxing on the pool deck, rejuvenating from what was undoubtedly a raucous weekend.  So it makes me proud to say that yesterday, I accomplished quite the feat: one sushi meal with Char at RA, one Lifetime movie (the disturbing & sad Natalee Holloway one), three cups of tea and two books!

Quite unintentionally, both books I read dealt with ghosts/spirits/other-worldly forms of energy.  The protagonist in Joshilyn Jackson’s The Girl Who Stopped Swimming saw the ghost come to her of the young girl who drowned in the pool while Ronlyn Domingue writes a captivating tale from the ghost’s perspective in The Mercy of Thin Air.

girlwhostoppedswimmingThe Girl Who Stopped Swimming is Jackson’s third novel, following Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia.  Having read them all, I’ve come to realize that Jackson employs a formula in each: Takes place in the South, involves a family secret, poor relatives and a young woman.  While these traits are shared, each book is individual, offering a different story and secret to be uncovered.

The secret in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming begins to unravel once Laurel finds the body of her daughter’s tween friend floating in her pool.  After enlisting her free-spirited sister, Thalia, to help, Laurel discovers more than she had anticipated about her marriage, her daughter, DeLop (the oppressed town of impoverished relatives), the murder in her past and even about herself.  An enlightening novel that makes the reader question happiness and wonder about their own ghosts, outside their line of vision.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B+
  • Title: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
  • Author: Joshilyn Jackson
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)

mercyofthinairHard to believe The Mercy of Thin Air is Domingue’s first novel.  Written with such insight and conviction, even a non-believer like myself questions reality.  Told in first person by the intelligent and vivacious Raziela Nolan after her tragic death at the turning point of her life, it tells the story of love that doesn’t die with the body.

Even though Razi dies in 1929 at the age of 22, the story carries the characters up into the 21st century, as she stays “between” – invisible to mortals but remaining on Earth. Her  tale is intertwined with the love story of a couple struggling through their relationship and hidden past, whose lives intersect with the one Razi left behind.  Interesting subplots abound: Razi’s dedication to educating women on their reproductive options when this knowledge was illegal (apparently in the 1920s pregnancy was the only job women were expected to do), the growth and development of independent women, the relationships with other souls in “between” and the life of her great love.

Both The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and The Mercy of Thin Air are more than love stories, though I do feel they appeal to women readers much more than men.  I consider myself to be grounded in reality and both these books made me more open to the presence of those we can’t see.  The next time I feel a cold draft or smell a scent that seems out of place I may have to smile, wondering if possibly a spirit is sharing in my experience. Who is to say otherwise?

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A-
  • Title: The Mercy of Thin Air
  • Author: Ronlyn Domingue
  • Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)

I do, however, suggest you read these books at least a few days apart.  I had a hard time sleeping last night imagining the spirits hovering around my bed!

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