Monday, August 20, 2018

Review: Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck

When your life is going along smoothly, you're happy, you enjoy your job, you love your spouse and kids, do you ever worry about something coming crashing down around your ears? Of course not. When life is amazing, there's no room for pessimism, doom and gloom, and worry. At most you probably say "Knock wood" as you grin and continue forward, right? But what if your perfect life screeched to a halt with a terrible tragedy that changed your whole world and made you examine your life in ways you never had before? In Sarahlyn Bruck's novel Designer You, this is exactly what happens to main character Pam.

Pam and Nate have a moderately famous DIY empire that they've painstakingly built over the course of their happy marriage. They met in college, created this successful business that is a true partnership, have a well-adjusted fifteen year old daughter named Grace, and live in a beautiful, old home in Philadelphia that they rehabbed together. Life is pretty perfect. Until...  Pam comes home one day to discover that Nate has fallen off the roof of their home while working on a rooftop deck, a project they were chronicling for their business.  Just that suddenly, he's gone.  Pam is a forty-four year old widow who now has the weight of the world on her shoulders. In the numb aftermath of the funeral, she throws herself into making sure that Designer You, the business that was Nate's dream and is her sole source of income, keeps running. She has to do this, partnerless, while also navigating daughter Grace's grief, as well as her own. There's so much for her to learn and so much work keeping her busy, local client projects--from first nail to final polished doorknob, home expos that require travel, the book she has promised her agent, the public and social media faces of the company, and so on, that she feels completely overwhelmed, losing track of Grace (hey, but Pam's parents are staying to help her out with Grace so Grace's needs are being met, right?), and of her own emotional well being. Life, this new life, is unsustainable and Pam is going to have to step up, make some hard decisions, and discover where her priorities actually are.

It is hard as a reader to watch Pam flounder so badly. She is clearly swamped by her grief and can barely hold herself together, never mind a demanding company and a devastated teenager who is acting out. As Pam scrambles to try and keep all of her various plates spinning, it is clear to the reader not only that something has to give but, because of obvious clues sprinkled all through the text, just exactly what part of her life should give. As Pam muddles through the year after Nate's death, tidbits of their life together over the years come out. Rather than contradicting the view of their marriage as a great and strong one, they reinforce it, at the same time making it clear that Pam happily lived for Nate's dreams, never quite knowing what her own path would be outside of those dreams. She wasn't at all unhappy in that but it certainly made her even more at sea once Nate is gone. Because of the third person limited narrative, daughter Grace is fairly unknowable, only presented from Pam's perspective. The reader sees her grieving but, like Pam, not how to help her or steer her away from the poor decisions she is suddenly making. Pam is clearly overwhelmed and the writing about her desperate frenzy to keep the business afloat and her head above water is real and true. Readers who enjoy stories of hard won reinvention, recovery from unexpected loss, and having to embrace Plan B will root for Pam and Grace and cheer them on as they find hope for the future.

For more information about Sarahlyn Bruck and the book, check out her webpage, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Crooked Cat Books for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. I feel like Pam is a character I would find myself rooting for, wanting her to succeed.

    Thanks for being on the tour!


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