Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough by Ruth Pennebaker

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough by Ruth Pennebaker
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 304
Date of Publication: January 2011
Publisher: Berkley Books
Source: I received a free review copy from Tolly at PR by the Book. Thanks Tolly!
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book description
(from the publisher):
Joanie's ex-husband is having a baby with his new girlfriend. Joanie won't be having more babies, since she's decided never to have sex again.  
But she still has her teenaged daughter Caroline to care for. And thanks to the recession, her elderly mother Ivy as well. Her daughter can't seem to exist without texting, and her mother brags about "goggling,"-while Joanie, back in the workforce, is still trying to figure out her office computer. And how to fend off the advances of her coworker Bruce.  
Joanie, Caroline, and Ivy are stuck under the same roof, and it isn't easy. But sometimes they surprise each other-and themselves. And through their differences they learn that it is possible to undo the mistakes of the past.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough is a book that took me through a wide range of emotions. At different points, the book made me laugh, it made me angry and a bit depressed, and it ended on a hopeful note.

Set in a multi-generational household of three women, the book explores the daunting emotional baggage that each woman is carrying. Caroline, the youngest, is a teenager struggling to find her identity. She is shy and smart, but feels invisible at school and has only one close friend. The one thing that gives her hope in her day is the boy she has a crush on, who barely seems to know she exists. She clashes constantly with her mother, Joanie. Joanie is 49-years-old, divorced, and trying to get the hang of her new job at an advertising agency. She just found out her ex-husband is having a baby with his newest girlfriend, which doesn't help her healing process after the divorce. She clashes pretty regularly with her mother Ivy, who has moved in with them because her life savings went down the drain when the stock market fell out. Ivy doesn't quite know how to handle living in someone else's house, especially when her relationship with Joanie has never been the best. In the beginning of the story she seems like she is in her own world, not really connecting with the other women in the house until later in the book.

Based on memories of my own teenage years, Caroline's almost constant negativity is annoyingly realistic. I was a shy girl in high school, and would always wish that I was different than myself, so I felt a connection with Caroline in a small way. And I could see a lot of realism in the way that Ivy was portrayed as well, just from watching the way that my mother and her elderly mother have switched roles as time has passed. I think I probably sympathized with Joanie the most, and although she could be a bit short with her mother, you could tell she was making progress in understanding and accepting the changes in her life.

There were several places in the book where I giggled out loud (especially when Ivy exclaimed to Joanie and Caroline that she knew how to "Goggle" *snicker*), and there were several points when I wanted to shake the characters and get them to look outside of their own sadness to really see each other. Having been in a place like that (a sad place where it's hard to see anything else), I felt a connection to these ladies. By the end of the book, they find a way to reconnect, and even when they are just taking baby-steps, you can tell that things will be better.

I enjoyed this book, and it seems to me that any woman whose teenage years seem overly dramatic in hindsight, or whose mother-daughter relationships (on both ends) have seen their ups and downs, will see aspects of themselves or their family members in these characters. The relationships they have with each other are realistic, funny, frustrating, and hopeful, and that is just what we come to expect in life.

I also want to share the trailer with you too, because it was the reason I ultimately decided to accept the book for review:

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