In Schnall’s debut novel, shocking news derails a woman’s plans for her 40th birthday and prompts a journey of self-discovery.
As she prepares to send her youngest child off to school, stay-at-home mom Grace May dreams of filling her free time writing for Westchester Weekly magazine and rekindling her relationship with her husband, Darren. Unfortunately, the magazine shuts down before she pens her first column, and Darren makes a tearful confession that he cheated on Grace with a cocktail waitress. At first, Grace’s situation doesn’t seem to justify her panic: She doesn’t need to work, and her appropriately sheepish husband seems willing to wine and dine his way back into her good graces. But this isn’t enough to stop Grace from feeling sorry for herself or from holding a grudge against Darren. The real source of her discomfort becomes clear as she explains her wavering emotions and self-critical thoughts in long stretches of dialogue with her best friend, Cameron, who’s having fertility problems, and her mother and sister, whose relationships with Grace can’t fill the void left by her other sister’s death. “I’m so conflicted about whether I’m supposed to have a job or whether I’m supposed to be home with the boys,” Grace laments. Her mother replies, “You’re concerned with what you’re supposed to do, instead of doing what you want to do,” and she cites how Grace took ballet classes as a child because her teacher complimented her—not because she liked them. The author’s blend of girl talk and self-help wisdom reads like a conversation overheard at Starbucks: It’s written in a friendly, nonjudgmental voice that any woman would want to hear after a bad day. Just as Grace is ready to forgive Darren, a reunion with her high school crush threatens their marriage once again, and Cameron announces a shocking revelation of her own. Faced with real-world problems, Grace adjusts her priorities, confronts her fears, and in the process of being true to herself, learns the real meaning of the word “grace.”
A cozy, conversational read featuring a lovably neurotic heroine.