Steel Magnolias, transferred to the cafÃ©.
A familiar â€œfeel-good” ring pervades Green’s debut novel: A small group of girlfriends meet regularly to laugh and eat, discuss everything life throws at them, regale each other with tales of their hot flashes, personal woes, etc., and come to terms with devastating loss. The distinguishing factors here are the four protagonists, all in their 60s, and the narrative’s thematic adherence to the maxims espoused in Longfellow’s life-affirming poem, â€œA Psalm of Life.” Each of the characters struggles with her own rather amplified demons, but in the end affirms that the greatest legacy one can leave–a subject over which each of these accomplished women obsesses–is a life well-lived. Though succumbing to cancer, the widowed pediatrician Lily realizes she’s left her mark on all the young lives she healed. Janet, the bisexual shrink with an under-medicated bipolar daughter, eventually finds love and reconciliation. Overweight, bossy Monica, a successful small-business owner, overcomes her self-image problems and discovers happiness. And Suzanne, a divorced real-estate agent, finally surmounts her attraction to her womanizing ex-husband by returning to the community theater where the foursome met 40 years before. The omniscient narrator concisely sums up the key to the group’s power: â€œThe women individually were not the icons of strength they projected to the world. Yet, each had a unique strength that magnified when combined with the other three, creating a bond that only they could break.”
Occasionally corny and preachy, but overall, an engaging, witty look at the balm of friendship.