Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

Julia and Michael have been living separate lives for a long time now. So when Michael has a heart attack and "dies" for over 4 minutes, Julia is jolted by the strength of her reaction. But that pales in comparison with her reaction to the Michael who now inhabits her husband's body. He is caring and concerned and determined to make their marriage strong and loving, like it once was. He seems to need to atone for so may things that he has done wrong, chief among them letting his wife drift away as he concentrated single-mindedly on the business that made him extremely, obscenely wealthy.

As Michael works hard to woo Julia back, he also drops the bombshell that he is selling his company and giving away all of his money. He says that he has realized that the money has never made him happy but Julia struggles with his decision and debates whether she wants a relationship with her husband at all. Small pieces of their past together (they were high school sweethearts) start emerging in this tale of marriage, love, second chances, and forgiveness. And as Julia's former life comes out, the reader understands her reluctance to trust Michael and her terror at the thought of all of the money being given away.

I had a few issues with the story, the largest being that Michael did not see that his unilateral decisions for their marriage were just that: unilateral. I know that the point was made that Julia and Michael's finances were intentionally kept separate but their life was not. The lifestyle that his money bought, the houses, the shopping, the high profile friends and acquaintances was all of a piece and his decision to give it all away without any input from Julia was still selfish even if he paid for it all. A marriage is a partnership and since that was what Michael was trying to hard to resurrect in their marriage, it was a little hard to swallow that he would go about it in such a singular way. The other biggish issue that I had was that the ending was a little overly foreshadowed. It was better than the only other alternative I can imagine given the story arc though so I can mostly forgive the predictability.

Julia, as a character, is very sympathetic. She is completely real. The massive amounts of money that she has become accustomed to having has not changed who she fundamentally is inside. She's still the poor girl from WV who is unexpectedly uncomfortable in this new world. She is a good and loyal friend who cares deeply about the happiness and lives of the people around her. She is the kind of woman who can befriend a captivating young boy playing with his dog beside a river, finding a sweet companionship in his company. She is the woman who can put on the perfect benefit or event be it large or small and who thrives on doing so. She's also the woman who has not been able to forgive her father for his gambling addiction and the effect that had on her mother, nevermind the way in which it damaged her own ability to trust. As she faces the reality of the new Michael and his desire to make up to her all the neglect and disinterest that has been the hallmark of so much of their marriage, she debates her options, never knowing herself what she is finally going to choose to do until she is actually in the moment. The reader feels her pain and confusion, understands it, even as we also understand that she still loves her husband, the man he once was and the man he seems to be trying so hard to prove that he can be again.

Ultimately the story is sweet and takes a close look at the reality of marriage, the way in which love is just the starting point to which so much other junk is added, sometimes to the point that that love is buried and obscured. Money and trust and time itself are all major issues in any marriage and Pekkanen has teased out a tale where they take top billing and she has done so with originality and sensitivity.

Thanks to Jessica at BookSparks PR for sending me a copy of this book to review, which I have done in conjunction with a blog sweepstakes.

1 comment:

  1. I saw the author speak last week and she read a little from the book - it totally whetted by appetite! I can't wait to read it!


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