May 15, 2010

Book Review: Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers

Nice to Come Home To
9781594483561, Riverhead Books (Penguin Putnam), $15

This post was originally published here in May 2008. It has been edited from the original version.
Keeping up with all the great new children's books out there hasn't left me much spare time to sit down with something more appropriate for my own age and reading level. I admit it was the cover of this book that made me pick it up, and when I actually read it (4 weeks later) I was glad I did.

As the title may give away, this is a novel about finding love (that someone it's "nice to come home to"), but it's also a novel about finding yourself. What I liked best about this book, and I mean this in a complimentary way, is that the novel doesn't take itself too seriously while exploring that vein. I admit to being a deep thinker; I tend to apply everything - books, movies, music - to feelings and situations in my own life (often way overdoing it!), and it was really nice to read something that spoke to me without taking me too deep.

The main plot involves Prudence Whistler - Pru for short. She's in her mid-to-late 30s, has just lost her job, and is about to lose her boyfriend. Unexpectedly, she sees herself reflected in a stranger - a woman full of children, husband, and her place in life as mother/caregiver - and Pru is catapulted into uncertainty about where her own life is taking her without any of those things. Prudence Whistler is a woman of lists and plans. The plot unfolds as Pru struggles to find what it is she is really meant to be doing, really wants to do, and how any sort of romantic entanglement fits into all of that.

A sub-plot involving her younger sister, Patsy's, romantic life only serves to underscore the things Pru is finding out about life, love, and herself. The subplot was well-done, adding some familial substance to the character of Pru, forwarding the plot just enough, without overwhelming Pru herself.

Even though I began this post by saying I'm glad things didn't get too hot and heavy into a discussion of topics such as life philosophy and the feminist female psyche (or as I put it earlier, "deep"), I admit to being a bit disappointed by how things worked out so well for everyone in the end. I won't write a spoiler, but I will say everything ends up as it should. Though on the surface Pru suffers - lost job, boyfriend, spoiled second romance, struggling career options - I really didn't feel Prudence taking enough charge of her own life. She went with the flow a bit too much for me, the universe threw a few too many good coincidences her way, and when she finally did stick up for her emotional well-being, the moment quickly became anti-climatic (which may have been the point, but really only served to take the wind out of my reading sails). As a list maker and planner myself, I didn't see enough determination, enough drive, enough (yes, I'll admit to it) ambition from her regarding her own life. Things sort of happened, she dealt with them, accepted them or didn't accept them, but there was something lackluster in her character, some missing spark or spirit that kept me from getting 100% behind her and fully celebrating for her at the end. Real life just isn't that pat of a story.

What held the book for me was the solid writing. I consistently went back for more. Rebecca Flowers has a way of putting together a sentence that gets to the heart of the matter and makes you want to know what's coming next (even if it the event itself is slightly predictable). Overall, a good, light read, well-written and meaningful, without the headache of too many unanswerable life questions. A great summer beach read.

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