“Everyone thinks I know what I’m doing but I actually have no idea what I’m doing and that’s the cruelest trick the universe plays on people who have their shit together, little one; the people who seem like they have it together are the most overlooked, because everyone thinks those people never need anything, but everyone needs things; I need things; thanks for listening;”
40 years of being a couple, Marily and David are still a couple madly in love. The annoying kind of in love where they are still touchy feely and still like each other. They have 4 daughters.
“But that was the thing: sometimes being a sister meant knowing the right thing to do and still not doing it because winning was more important.”
Wendy – their oldest child who is a widow and drinks a tad bit too much with a mean streak in her, reserved more for her younger sister, Violet
Violet – lawyer turned stay at home mom who would go to great lengths to have the perfect family image even though things aren’t all that they seem
Liza – the nerdy, rule follower who is stuck in a dead end relationship and finds herself pregnant
Grace – the surprise baby who was born much later than her sisters and struggles with finding her place.
“The thing that nobody warned you about adulthood was the number of decisions you’d have to make, the number of times you’d have to depend on an unreliable gut to point you in the right direction, the number of times you’d still feel like an eight-year-old, waiting for your parents to step in and save you from peril.”
It’s 2016 and each of the kids are in a not so good places in their lives and do not want to share this state with their parents. The book goes back and forth telling us the foundation, early beginnings and everything in between in David and Marilyn’s relationship. The anchor that births all the story lines is the reemergence of a child Violet gave up as a teenager. It affects each and every single one of them in a different way and brings back old and not so buried resentments.
So, I nearly dropped this book in the beginning because I was so confused with the back and forth and the many characters. But I am glad I stuck with it. I eased into it and finally got a grasp of the people and the stories. I enjoyed this one. I am a sucker for family and generational stories and that is what drew me to the book. Lombardo did a great job in developing the characters in the book so every action they took was realistic because it was true to form to how Lombardo had written them from childhood to adulthood.
It was so fascinating to me that this loving couple raised 4 assholes. Honestly guys, that is the only way to describe it. These kids were just horrible people. There is not one of them I would want to be friends with and it affected a bit of my enjoyment of the book because I spent a lot of it being frustrated and angry at their decisions. The even more fascinating thing about it is their whole spiral stemmed from feeling that they could not live up to finding and maintaining a love like their parents.
“She’d fallen into motherhood without intent, producing a series of daughters with varying shades of hair and varying degrees of unease.”
I want to talk more about the characters being unlikable. Each of the daughters were so unbelievably selfish. Liza was so indecisive it hurt my soul. Marilyn’s obliviousness drove me mad and it’s crazy how the most mature character was 16 year old, Jonah. While I found them unlikable, the flip side to it is that it could be seen as realistic and a portrayal of how complex it is to be human (and on some level to be a spouse and a parent)
“It’s funny,” her mom continued. “I think so much of making a relationship work has to do with choosing to be kind even when you may not feel like it. It sounds like the most obvious thing in the world but it’s much easier said than done, don’t you think?”
I do think the book ran a little longer than it should have. Every time I’d think the book was winding down, it’d just be ramping up another angle with another revelation about someone. I enjoyed the perspective of how everyone thought Marilyn and David were perfect but they really had so many trials that they worked through. Overall, this is a book about the trials that come with parenting, being a sibling, feeling lost, second guessing your life decisions. If you like long books and have the time to get into a well thought out story, I recommend this.