Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review: On the Rocks by Erin Duffy

Social media can be a wonderful thing. It keeps us connected to family and friends we might not otherwise see or hear from very often. It is an easy way to connect and to share, the good, the sad, and the ever day stuff of our lives. But it can have a darker side too. Thanks to social media, we know when we are the only ones not invited to the party or when we missed a really fun time. We have a tangible measure of who our friends really are. But it can be even worse than that. Thanks to the relationship status on platforms like Facebook, we can have our hearts broken in public. The main character in Erin Duffy's newest novel, On the Rocks, has this very thing happen to her.

Abby is trying on wedding dresses with her best friend Grace when Grace notices that Abby's fiance Ben has changed his relationship status to single. With one click of the mouse, her entire life changes, completely devastating her. Abby and Ben have been together for ten years. Their relationship is comfortable, in fact, Ben compares it to a comfy but tatty old sock you can't bring yourself to throw out. A work opportunity comes up for him, one that involves moving across the country, he takes a closer look at their spark-free relationship, and chooses to break things off before he leaves. But this decision comes out of the blue for Abby and she crumbles. She holes up in her apartment, watching tv, binging on ice cream, and wearing sweats. She's turned into a cliche. She also has to try and pull herself together to pretend pleasure for his younger sister's engagement and the run up to that wedding, which is unlikely to be cancelled, like her own was. Finally Grace has had enough and convinces Abby that she needs a change of scenery. As a kindergarten teacher, Abby's summers are free so she and Grace can rent a place in Newport Beach and try to break Abby out of her depression. The summer can also give Grace time to examine the future of her own relationship, an affair with a married colleague.

Although Abby's not so sure she can get back into the dating world and just be Abby instead of being Abby and Ben (after all, she's still responding to Ben's texts to her), she agrees to try. With the help of a former classmate of Grace's, a currently unemployed smart alecky lawyer named Bobby, who offers to be her wingman, and his friend Wolf, a German caddy wanting to perfect his English, Abby might dip a toe back in the single girl pool. But once bitten, twice shy, and she's not going to do it with her technology intact, deleting her Facebook account. Abby has some truly hilarious attempts at dating but more importantly, she works on accepting friendships, with Bobby and Wolf as well as with Lara, the seemingly perfect woman whose shop she ends up working in and who went to her high school.

The cover of this novel throws it firmly in the chick lit firmament but unlike many chick lit novels, finding a man will not make Abby whole or more complete. The novel is more firmly focused on the power and value of friendship and support than romantic love despite everyone urging Abby to date all the time. Abby is alternately vulnerable and a pain in the ass as she works through the death of her relationship and she comes to the knowledge that Ben wasn't wrong about the state of them and that she deserves to have more than just a comfortable and familiar, spark-free relationship. Bobby and Wolf are great supporting characters, adding levity to the story and calling Abby out on her moods. Grace has her own issues, the married boyfriend, which ultimately show Abby that she has to do more than mope about her own situation and be present for her friend. Having to come to terms with her younger sister's wedding and happiness, as well as recognizing and empathizing with Lara's deep despair are just two more ways that Abby's selfish self-absorption are challenged over her summer of healing. There is a lot of levity in the writing and the tone stays generally light and breezy. This is a quick read about the value of friendship with just enough quirky characters to balance out the inevitable heartbreaks. It may not stay with you long past closing the book but it's fun and frothy enough to be a perfect read when you have your toes buried in the sand and the sun shining overhead.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

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