Monday, September 19, 2016

The Real Liddy James

Title:  The Real Liddy James
Author:  Anne-Marie Casey
Publication Information:  G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2016. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0399160221 / 978-0399160226

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Liddy knew Mrs. Vandervorst had been crying because she emerged from the corridor bathroom with her sunglasses on."

Favorite Quote:  "I wanted to escape but I didn't know where to go. I am tired, it's true - mentally, physically, every way I can think of. Mostly I'm tired of being me."

This book deals with the age old question faced by so many - the balance between self, family, children, and career. The question has been explored in fiction and nonfiction. Most people, especially women, grapple with it their entire lives. We all know that there is no right answer, only an answer that is right for you at a moment in your life.

The premise suggests an emotionally engaging story. The work-life balance is something so many of us strive for every single day. The urge to escape some days is also a emotion felt by many. Perhaps, a fiction story can shed some new light on this very real-life concern. Unfortunately, this book really does not, and I like the story considerably less that I thought I would.

This book looks at the answer for two completely different women. The title character Liddy James is a divorced mother of two whose career as a New York City divorce attorney has led to success and fame. Rose is Liddy's ex-husband's new partner. The two women take dramatically different approaches to career and to motherhood. Between them is the same partner and the same two young children. The contrast between the two women can perhaps provide different perspectives on the issue of work-life balance.  Perhaps, the book can show the impact their different approaches have on the children. It does not. The even bigger issue is that I find neither character compelling nor engaging. In fact, both come close to the two diametrically opposite cliche answers to this question.

"I don't do guilt." That is the answer Liddy gives for a lot of things in both her personal and professional life. She comes across as unfeeling and self-absorbed. That holds true until one day, it all seems to catch up to her, on national television. Call it life. Call it a mid-life crisis. Call it an epiphany.  It results in a trip to Ireland to recapture family history - a section of the book that is like reading a completely different, unrelated story. Unfortunately, Liddy still comes across as self-absorbed. What follows is a disappointing conclusion. The "real" Liddy James is no more appealing than the the Liddy James introduced at the beginning in the book. Her mid-life self-realization just does not ring true, and, by that point, I am not vested enough in the character to care.

Rose is also a well-educated woman pursuing a career. Her main focus unfortunately seems to be getting and keeping her man. She moves into the home Peter shared with Liddy; she lives with an insecurity about her relationship. Even her job seems to rely on others watching out for her. She is described as whimpering in a professional meeting. Really? Her character reads like a cliche wallflower waiting to be saved.

I find the book's either-or answer to the question of family versus career undermines the choices and compromises so many people make in real life to manage blended families and to find that balance.   The marketing for the book describes it as fun, fearless, and full of heart; unfortunately, I find it to be none of those. How disappointing.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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