July 9, 2010

Review: Fly Away Home

By Jennifer Weiner
Available July 13 from Atria (Simon & Schuster)
Review copy

Fly Away Home: A Novel

In my mind, there are two major categories of chick lit. There are the light, frothy, and humorous ones, written by authors like Hester Browne and Wendy Wax. Then there are the more dramatic ones, written by authors like Karen Hawkins. From what I've heard of Jennifer Weiner's books like GOOD IN BED, I assumed her novels belonged in the former category. But FLY AWAY HOME is firmly in the latter, which I don't prefer. Therefore, it started slow but picked up speed. It does climax with a disatrous family dinner, and I can't resist the disatrous family dinner setpiece.

FLY AWAY HOME rotates between three points of view. The first is Sylvie Serfer Woodruff, the mother. She gave up her career to support her politician husband, but his affair with an intern has just become national news. With all the politician affair scandals, it's a plotline that's both timely and timeless. Weiner explores the question know one can resist, "Why would a woman stand by her husband while he announces he had an affair?" Sylvie's plotline meanders the most and is the least satisfying to me. She's has the most interesting set-up, but even at the end I'm not sure I feel like she's going any where. She loses her rudder in the beginning and I'm not sure I believe that she gets it back.

Then comes Diana, her oldest daughter and the character I liked most. Diana's the sort of person who can clearly see what people expect of her and lives up to those expectations. Thus, she finds herself in a loveless marriage, obsessed with running, and trying to be a good mother to her son. But no one can be perfect forever, and she gets involved in a passionate affair with a med student who doesn't know she has a son. At first her narration is hard to take because she's so obsessed with Dave, her illicit boyfriend. It's difficult to believe she kept the affair secret when every other word in her thoughts is "Dave." I like her much better in the second half of the novel, when she begins focusing on herself and her son. Diana has the most dramatic storyline, but even with her planned life falling apart she's too controlled to really let loose.

Finally, there's Lizzie, the youngest daughter and a recovering drug addict. She's now working as a photographer and baby-sitting her nephew Milo. She meets Jeff when he helps her with some teenagers who were harassing her in a cafe. It's nice to see her self-confidence grow as she turns her life around, for good reason. I liked Lizzie's voice the most - she has an understated sense of humor - but felt like her storyline needed a little more drama in order to compete.

I'll try another Jennifer Weiner book in the future. I greatly enjoyed the high points of FLY AWAY HOME. But the slow beginning and other flaws kept me from falling in love with FLY AWAY HOME. FLY AWAY HOME is a quiet drama, and when I'm reading drama I'm drawn to something more juicy and over-the-top. But I have to give it props for the ending, which I devoured quickly.

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