In the months following her best friend’s death, Isabel struggles with loss, guilt, and an imploding family life. Weaving memories together with present day events, Isabel slowly comes to grips with questions that anyone who’s lost a loved one asks. Real relationships are messy, so how do we make things right when someone suddenly disappears? How do we make it through to the other side of that loss? How do we move forward without leaving them behind? Fox’s writing conveys an intimate understanding of the complexity of grief and its many cyclical stages. That said, there is a definite lightness to this book, an underlying thread of humor. Though Isabel uses humor as a method of deflecting attention away from her problems, it nevertheless keeps the novel surprisingly upbeat.
There were a few main things I really appreciated about this novel.
1) This reads like grief feels. There were a few beautifully crafted sentences that hyperbolized the process, but (unlike so many other novels dealing with loss) it didn’t feel gratuitous. It was very honest. I really loved when Isabel starts to breath again and realizes she can keep living. It was really well done - the sense of betrayal and guilt at not being constantly sad alongside the feeling that you’re seeing the world around you through a new lens. Just perfect.
2) I cannot understate how much I appreciate reading a novel where a real, complicated female friendship was the core relationship. Female friendships - especially long lasting ones - are so intense and complicated and multi-faceted and intimate. This type of realistic portrayal of a friendship is one that I always go nuts for in a novel because it’s so rarely done (or rather...it’s so rarely done well). Isabel and Josie’s relationship felt so tragically real.
3) Being from Milwaukee, I always feel a brief swell of pride when any piece of pop culture features my fair city. We're your standard mid-sized Midwestern city, always over shadowed by Chicago, so when we get a few minutes in the sun it always warms my cold, cold heart.
I would recommend this for anyone who's known personal loss or anyone dealing with a Relationship in Transition
(read it...then you'll get it).