What would you do if your husband left you because he didn't want to be married anymore, your teen daughter was rebelling and seemed to hate you, and your mother with whom you were never the favorite child and who has a penchant for shoplifting has moved in with you?
I shudder to think about it. Yet, it is a reality for some families.
This is the topic of Ruth Pennebaker's new Penguin novel Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough. We meet three generations of women residing in the same household and trying to find common ground.
Joanie is the divorcee whose husband has left her and who now has a twenty-nine year old pregnant girlfriend/fiancee. Her daughter thinks she is a nag and refuses to talk to her and her mother who just moved in seems critical of everything she does. She struggles to come to terms with her new life now that she is on her own through her divorcee support group, her friend Mary Margaret whose own mother is dead and is herself seeing a married man, and with the help of her colleague, Bruce who becomes a catalyst in helping Joanie realize some important things about her life including whether or not to ever be intimate again.
Ivy is her mother who is from a completely different generation and has her own ideas of how to raise a child and even why Joanie's husband left her. Ivy has lost friends through death and their moving away. She lost her husband. Even after saving and doing everything "right" she is also affected by the downturn in the economy and is forced to move in with her daughter. She is essentially away from everything she has known and her favorite child, her son, seems to have forgotten about her. Shoplifting for her is a way to add some excitement to her lonely and dull life-until she gets caught and is forced to face everything she has been avoiding.
Caroline is the teenager who is forced to deal with knowing more than she ever wanted to know about those around her in addition to the usual teenage angst. She watched her mom, Joanie hit rock bottom and has become the confidante of her father's new girlfriend, B.J. She rebels smoking marijuana and dying her hair as she figures out who she is.
Three women who each act out in their own ways all come to realize that they must let go and that only they are responsible for their happiness and that they may need to venture out of their comfort zones to find the life they want for themselves.
Pennebaker draws her readers into the characters' lives. You see their flaws and their vulnerabilities. The situations they each find themselves in are at times comical. It is hard to pass judgment on them when they are each struggling with the hands they have been dealt and ultimately must let go or be swallowed up by their anger and sadness. There are elements in the story that each of us can relate to especially the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship. We've also all been there at that moment where we must decide which path to take. You can't help but feel compassion for these three strong women who decide to keep moving forward.
Want to read more about Ruth Pennebaker? Visit her at www.ruthpennebaker.com (her witty quotes will have you laughing hysterically) or her blog, The Fabulous Geezersisters.
Want to read her new novel for yourself?
Win a copy of Ruth Pennebaker's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough (2 winners)
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This giveaway will end on Saturday, March 19, 2011. I will announce the winner on March 20th here at The Practical Mom Guide. All winners are chosen randomly. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.
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*I was provided with a copy of Ruth Pennebaker's novel to review and two novels to give away to two lucky TPMG readers.