A whimsical tale of a woman taking chances and discovering new opportunities around her.
On what seems like an ordinary day, Pauline Thorne’s life takes a small but unexpected turn. A woman clumsily spills wine into Pauline’s purse, a bag that, much like Pauline, is washed out and in need of revival. The woman guiltily dashes off a check to replace the bag, scribbling a number at least four times the cost of the bag. Although Pauline would usually refuse the money, something inside her begins to stir, a longing for something she has wanted her entire life. The new bag spells possibility for Pauline, a wife and mother who is struggling financially and emotionally in a charmless world. With a new bag, Pauline reflects, “a girl never knew what other luck might follow”; (page 2) she picks one that symbolizes confidence, wealth and indulgence, and she feels changed. She reevaluates herself. She strikes up a friendship with a new neighbor, Arthur, a man several years older who offers something that Pauline’s own husband, Richard, has not: a deep awareness of who she is. While considering her aging parents, Pauline takes stock of her own mortality and is determined to take control where she can. Although the novel often meanders off course, the narrative skillfully and sympathetically outlines the struggle of self-acceptance. The bag, and Pauline herself, come to symbolize the desperate need people feel to find and perhaps redefine themselves as they near middle age, and this common experience is handled with grace and wit. The unadorned writing offers moments of humor, surprise and warmth. Pauline’s story is relatable and endearing, filled with people who ring true with their own strengths and flaws.
A universal story of someone recapturing herself near middle age.