book review – fly away home by jennifer weiner

28 Sep

A preamble:

I am a fan of Jennifer Weiner.  I have been for quite some time.  I first started reading for pleasure because of my now husband.  Before we started dating, I didn’t read anything.  I’m serious.  I didn’t read anything.  In high school?  Nope, not if I could help it.  College? Uh uh.  Not until my husband taught me that reading could be fun, as long as you had the right book, did I begin to read every night before I fall asleep.  Now, I couldn’t imagine falling asleep without reading.  Now, I LOVE reading.

When I began reading, I read a lot of fluff. You know what I’m talking about…novels about women who love shopping and men and who aren’t that complex. Now, I don’t have a problem with fluff don’t get me wrong.  The fluff was what got me into reading, so I will be forever grateful.  BUT after reading something that wasn’t fluff…something that had some substance; some umph, I was HOOKED.

Jennifer Weiner was one of the first female authors I read that wasn’t FLUFF.  I know that, some considers her considered a “chick lit” writer.  Now, I could go on for a long time about the words, “chick lit,” but I’ll save you the agony.  All I want to say is that I believe that there is such thing as chick lit (secret: it’s what I call FLUFF).  Chick lit has its place in literature, just like really bad science fiction has its place in literature.  What I’m saying is that there are fluffy novels for both women AND men.  Unfortunately, unsurprisingly, fluffy novels written for women get the term “chick lit.”  So, now I’m done with that.

I believe Jennifer Weiner writes books for women that aren’t fluff.  The characters are complex…they are people you might know.  She’s dealt with subject matter from motherhood to a murderer.  I think she’s fantastic.  She realizes that women don’t just want to read about a beautiful, skinny, 20-something woman working at an ad agency, or publishing company, or magazine in Manhattan who is trying to tackle her career, love life, and workout regimen all at the same time.

Weiner doesn’t do it.  Instead, in Fly Away Home, her main character is the wife, Sylvie, of a cheating politician, Richard Woodruff, a US Senator.  I know all of us have watched an estranged wife stand beside her cheating politician husband and wondered why the hell she wasn’t strangling him, jamming her stiletto into the instep of his foot, and quietly twisting his balls off.  Weiner doesn’t quite explain why Sylvie doesn’t do all those things, but she does take us into Sylvie’s reality.  This reality is one where Sylvie has tried to be the perfect stay-at-home wife and mother (even though she is a lawyer); so perfect that she neglected to notice the people her daughters became, both troubled and unsure of their own identities and places in the world.  She pretended that her reality was perfect.  Of course, it all came crashing down the day her husband’s affair went public.  The story is about how she recovered.  The reader learns that something as devastating as an affair isn’t just over in a day, after a press conference.  The aftershocks seem to last for a long, long time.

We encounter Lizzie and Diana, Sylvie and Richard’s daughters.  The former seems to be a real screw-up while the latter seems to be perfect.  Of course, this reality is also not as it seems.  These women deal with their parent’s role differently and, in a way, treat their realities like their mother does.  They both ignore actual reality and make their own, which doesn’t work out for any of them.  For all of these women, it takes a real shake up for each of them to know themselves.

I thought this book was a great, quick read, much like Weiner’s other novels.  I cared about the characters and wanted them to be happy, and in some cases they were.  Weiner has never left me unsatisfied and that streak has continued.

You can find the book here.

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One Response to “book review – fly away home by jennifer weiner”

  1. Ronnie Holton September 29, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    That was an excellent review. I have now made plans to read the book based on your assessment.

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