Thursday, July 15, 2010
Review: "Pieces of Happily Ever After" by Irene Zutell
Suddenly Alice, who was never a fan of the spotlight, is a paparazzi magnet. An almost-divorced paparazzi magnet. Having never felt at-home in California, Alice doesn't really have any friends to turn to, other than long-distance ones. Shortly after her world is turned upside-down, Gabby starts kindergarten, and Alice makes an effort to get to know the other children's moms, knowing that she needs women around her to help her through her own personal tabloid hell.
Luckily, the friends that she makes are unconventional but warm and welcoming. They include a soccer mom who wears Winnie the Pooh sweaters, a former porn star trying to turn over a new leaf, and a woman with mysterious and chronic headaches. As Alice navigates through her newly single life, she tries to determine what it is that she really wants. If Alex leaves Rose, does she want him back? What kind of parent does she want to be? Most importantly, who has she become, and what does this new Alice want out of life?
My description of Pieces of Happily Ever After just doesn't do it justice. There is just so much going on in this book! Alice, the main character, is dealing with so much. Her husband has undergone a complete transformation in both personality and appearance and has gone off with a movie star, of all people. Her daughter, Gabby, is adorable, yet a handful. She's a subject of fascination for the paparazzi, who want to know all about the abandoned wife of Rose Maris' new boyfriend. Her mother has Alzheimer's and is deteriorating quickly. Despite the fact that there is so much going on, it never feels like too much. It just feels like Alice is doing her best to cope, getting through things one day at a time.
I really appreciated the secondary characters in the book as well. Faye, a psychic who Alice's friend introduces her to, is funny and a calming presence. Ruth, a former porn star trying to erase her past, is so earnest and such a good friend to Alice that I couldn't help but love her. Trinity, her mother's caregiver was also a welcome addition to the book, bringing a whole new dimension to the friendships that blossom over the course of the story. John, the paparazzo with heart was my absolute favourite secondary character.
I also loved the underlying princess theme. Gabby, Alice's daughter, is obsessed with Disney princesses in all shape and form. She's convinced that every woman is a damsel in distress, every man a Prince Charming. Irene Zutell manages to weave this into the larger storyline, emphasizing how life is not all "happily ever afters", but rather what we choose to make it. I'm going to read this one again just to see if I missed any of these clever references the first time around.
I only have one small criticism. I didn't like that Alice called her mother "mommy". It infantilized her. I don't know many grown women who still call their mothers "mommy", and I cringed a little each time that word appeared. However, this was a very minor criticism, and definitely did not detract from the book overall.
Irene Zutell's Pieces of Happily Ever After was alternately hilarious, heartbreaking, and warm. A reflection on friendships, parenthood, and marriage, I thoroughly enjoyed her novel and will definitely keep my eyes open for her future releases.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Fans of women's fiction
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010
Thank-you to Crystal at BookSparks PR for providing me with this review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.