Saturday, July 3, 2010

Review: "The Season of Second Chances" by Diane Meier

Joy Harkness is surprised when she's offered a prestigious position at Amherst College, working with the respected Bernadette Lowell. At the time she's working for Columbia University and feels a little burnt out with both New York and with her job, so she's excited to relocate, although she's not quite sure why Amherst wants her so badly. She moves to Massachusetts with her few belongings not quite knowing what to expect.

When she arrives she decides to buy a house. In all of her years in New York she had never really put down roots- her apartment was rented and she had kept a safe distance between herself and her colleagues. However she's decided that it's time for things to change, and Joy starts looking at real estate. She finds a run down old house, neglected at best, and surprises even herself when she decides to buy it and restore it.

The purchase of her house leads to her meeting Teddy, the local handyman with a gift for restoration. She and Teddy begin having a strange and oddly dependant relationship with one another, and as her house is restored to its former glory, Joy feels that something inside her has changed as well.

As its title suggests, The Season of Second Chances is all about getting a new lease on life. Joy's house was a metaphor for the change happening in her life. As her house changes and becomes brighter and newer, Joy becomes brighter and newer herself. When she initially takes the position with Amherst College she is rather reclusive, protecting herself from the people around her. She doesn't go to a lot of social gatherings with her colleagues, and her closest friends in New York are elderly sisters who still live together after many years. Her new office mates change all of that, forcing her through their kindness to open herself up to the friendships that are being offered to her. I would hesistate to call this a coming- of- age story, since Joy is middle-aged, but that's exactly what this is- a journey where at the end Joy finds that she has developed into someone new.

I didn't enjoy the relationship between Joy and Teddy, the handyman. Teddy struck me as odd (which he is supposed to) with his strange dress sense and his complete dependance on his mother. However I believe that this relationship was supposed to serve as a launching pad for Joy's future romantic life- she needs to be in this relationship in order to know how to handle adult relationships in the future.

What I really enjoyed was Joy's transformation. At the beginning of the book she seems to be contained in a private bubble, one where she can't be reached by any human, but by the end of the book she becomes someone entirely different- someone who feels emotions and lets people into her life, even if there is the possibility that she could get hurt in the process.

I really enjoyed this book, and the underlying message- it is never too late to grow emotionally and to make changes for the better. Thank-you to Henry Holt and Company for this review copy! You can read an excerpt from the book or check out the reading group guide here.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Fans of women's fiction and coming-of-age novels
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010


  1. I like this one too especially since I was familiar with the locale.

  2. Nice review. I agree with all your points and thought it was an enjoyable book.

  3. I liked this book too - the characters have stayed me which is the hallmark of a good book for me!

    Glad you liked it too!

  4. I'm almost finished with The Season Of Second Chances -- just 30 pages to go! -- and completely agree with your review! I was just thinking today about how the novel feels like a coming-of-age story, despite the fact that Joy is 48. I have a feeling I'll be mentioning that in my review soon, too! :)