THE BREAKDOWN LANE by Jacquelyn Mitchard

THE BREAKDOWN LANE

KIRKUS REVIEW

Middle-aged woman beset by MS and a twerpy husband nevertheless triumphs, aided by her learning-disabled but preternaturally articulate teenaged son.

In this ungainly and overwrought sob-story, advice columnist Julieanne, an accomplished ballet dancer married to lawyer Leo Steiner, senses something awry when her leg won’t move during a Pilates stretch. Soon, Leo, who’s been courting eccentricity with New Age e-pen-pals, exercise binges, and penny-pinching, turns 49 and announces he wants a sabbatical from his job and marriage. After a trial trip, he decamps on a permanent bliss hunt. Julieanne, whose column pays a pittance, must scramble to cover the experimental Interferon shots she needs to forestall full-blown MS. Her teenage son Gabe, whose journal chronicles the far more entertaining half of this saga, steps into his father’s role with the Steiners’ late-life child, toddler Aurora, but drops out of school, where as a Special Ed student he has been mostly misunderstood. Leo’s mortified elderly parents and Julieanne’s lesbian psychologist friend Cathy also step up to help with Julieanne’s chaotic finances and MS- and chemo-induced meltdowns. Julieanne’s column is syndicated after a few entries, ghostwritten by Gabe and Cathy, amping up her reputation. Adolescent daughter Caroline, buffeted by too-abrupt personality shifts, won’t care-give, but she inaugurates a spring-break road trip, with Gabe, to retrieve Leo from his intentional community of jam-brewing weavers. Imagine their shock to learn that Leo now has an infant son and his 28-year-old consort is pregnant again. Not much else is left to the imagination, since each bump in the terrain of pain is micro-measured. But wait! Treacly, just-in-time rescue rides in with Matt MacDougall, grade-school dweeb turned wealthy and hunky surgeon, who, it turns out, still nurses a crush on Julieanne. Not only that, her poem is published by what sounds suspiciously like the New Yorker.

Mawkish morass of gloom, lightly frothed with escapism. Sure to wow fans of Oprah laureate Mitchard (Twelve Times Blessed, 2003, etc.).

Pub Date: April 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-058724-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2005




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