Thursday Review: When it Happens to You by Molly Ringwald

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When it happens to you, you will be surprised. That thing they say about how you knew all the time, but just weren’t facing it? That might be the case, but nevertheless, there you will be.

Molly Ringwald mines the complexities of modern relationships in this gripping and nuanced collection of interlinked stories. Writing with a deep compassion for human imperfection, Ringwald follows a Los Angeles family and their friends and neighbors while they negotiate the hazardous terrain of everyday life–revealing the deceptions, heartbreak, and vulnerability familiar to us all.

In “The Harvest Moon,” a stay-at-home mom grapples with age, infertility, and an increasingly distant husband. In “Ursa Minor,” a former children’s television star tries to rebuild his life after being hospitalized for “exhaustion.” An elderly woman mourns the loss of her husband and her estranged relationship with her daughter in “The Little One.” In “My Olivia,” a single mother finds untapped reserves of strength to protect her flamboyant six-year-old son who wishes only to wear dresses and be addressed as Olivia. And in the devastating title story, a betrayed wife chronicles her pain and alienation, leading to an eviscerating denouement.

My review:

As the lives of these characters converge and diverge in unexpected ways, Ringwald reveals a startling eye for the universality of loss, love, and the search for connection. An unflinching yet poignant examination of the intricacies of the human heart, When It Happens to You is an auspicious literary debut.

This was a book club book from my Mom’s group, so it wasn’t my typical read. I enjoyed it enough. My favorite story was “My Olivia.” I’ve found I really enjoy reading about children or young adults struggling with gender identity. Ringwald handles the story with sympathy and tact, I didn’t feel like she was pushing an agenda but exploring the life of a very three dimensional set of characters. Another great read along the same lines is

    Jack

      by Adrienne Wilder. Fantastic book. This was an interesting read but I don’t see myself reading it again and again.
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