Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Maybe all women had these thoughts. Maybe all women felt tired. But the thoughts confused her. Good women weren't supposed to have doubts. Good women were supposed to be strong and selfless. Instead Meg felt needy and afraid. What if there was no reward after all the hard work? What if life was just one sacrifice after another?
I've enjoyed Jane Porter's novels in the past, but for some reason I seem to forget just how much until I'm reading one again. And that's what happened with The Good Woman (which incidentally I kept wanting to call The Good Wife). Once I got really started into this book, I enjoyed it immensely.
The Good Woman is the first in a new trilogy by Porter about the four Brennan sisters. Meg is the oldest and the protagonist of the first book. She's married, a mother to three, a successful career woman, and a perfectionist. She often feels pressure to keep everything together and somehow in the middle of that has started to get the feeling that maybe there's something more. She loves her husband but their sex life is practically nonexistent and she often feels that he relies on her too much. And while she gets along with most of her sisters, she's also a rock in those relationships. Additionally, on the annual girls weekend she learns that her mother has a recurrence of her cancer and is not planning on fighting it. So when the opportunity presents itself for Meg to get her needs met in other ways, she feels powerless to resist.
I was reading this book and I was about a third of the way through when I started feeling cranky. I set it down and did some other stuff for a bit and was thinking about it and I realized the reason I was feeling this way was because I identified with the three main sisters' issues! Sometimes seeing your own mess laid out on the page like that is a little uncomfortable. But this does bring up a point which is that while this book is mostly from Meg's point of view there are a few times it randomly switches to her sisters' Kit and Sarah's POV. So I think maybe they are going to be the main characters of the remaining books.
Anyway, what I loved about this book is just how true and real it felt. Meg's boss starts to pay attention to her and he's hot and really really into her and she's so lonely that of course she's tempted. And she's been duty bound for so long...taking care of her kids, being the good wife to her husband, that she feels like she's discovering that there's more to life that she's just forgotten about. And so the set-up for her to have an affair is really good. Even while there are other ways she could have handled her situation, i.e. talking to her husband and explaining how she was feeling, it's understandable to the reader how everything happens. You feel as much sympathy for her as you can.
I also loved it because, well, I like stories about people who hold themselves to a certain standard and think they'd never be the kind of person to do something, only to crash and fall and realize that they are capable of everything they never thought they would be capable of. That's real life to me, the hard grit of living...that we each possess the ability to be monsters. It's in the aftermath of it that we discover who we really are and I think this is so much of Meg's story.
And I just liked it because of the quote above, because stories that explore the disconnect between the person we think we should be and the person we are is really interesting to me. I think women especially have a flood of conflicting messages about society's expectations of who we should be--we should be selfless, yes, but also strong. There's so little room to just be who we actually are. And Meg's journey specifically takes a very "selfish" turn in order for her arrive at these important conclusions. She uses almost everyone, but it's a direct result of having denied herself for so long. There's no such thing as truly selfless in my opinion, Meg's actions before...being the perfect wife and mother and sister were all made out of her desire to see herself that way, to live up to what she thought she should be. And when your actions have these motivators it's only a matter of time before it falls apart.
So yeah I really loved this book. Also, it's just plain engrossing and Porter writes her characters with such warmth.
Things You might want to know: lots of sexy times
Source of Book: Review copy received from publisher
Publisher: Berkley Books (Penguin)
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Review: The Good Woman by Jane Porter